Trusted Military Divorce Attorney in Oklahoma City
Going through the divorce process with somebody you once loved and shared a life with can be an extremely difficult process for many people. Divorce can happen to any couple at any stage of their marriage, however, it can get significantly more difficult when it involves military families. If one or both partners in a marriage are service members, they will have to go through a military divorce, which is a lot more complex than a civilian divorce. Our team can answer your questions.
Facing a military divorce can be made significantly easier when you have the backing of an experienced military divorce attorney. Divorce lawyers can help you understand the complexities of military divorces and guide you through family law issues such as child support, child custody, division of retirement benefits and military pensions, and property division.
At Cannon & Associates, we have a team of lawyers that are highly experienced in managing military divorces. Many of our lawyers have previously served in the military and our managing attorney, John Cannon, is a Judge Advocate in the Oklahoma National Guard. Our law firm understands the unique challenges faced by service members going through a military divorce and we want to be the Fierce Advocate that helps guide you through the process and protects your best interests.
Regardless of whether your military divorce is uncontested or contested, it is important to ensure that your rights as a service member are protected at all costs and that you get a fair divorce settlement.
Call our law firm today at 405-591-3935 to schedule a free consultation with a military divorce attorney.
What is Military Divorce?
Distinct from civilian divorce, military divorces involve the legal separation of a couple when one or both partners are service members. Military divorce is much more complex than a standard civilian divorce, as service members are protected by federal laws and statutes that are separate from Oklahoma law. These laws and statutes serve to protect service members from an unfair divorce when they are active duty members or returning from active service.
There are a number of different acts that offer protection to service members. If you are going through the military divorce process, it is important to hire an attorney who understands these acts and the unique legal issues that arise during a military divorce.
Service Members Civil Relief Act (SCRA)
The Service Members Civil Relief Act protects service members who are on active or overseas duty. This act prevents civilians from issuing divorce or child custody proceedings against service members while they are deployed without a court order. Under this Act, a service member can apply to get their divorce proceedings postponed by 90 days. This can also be extended further if 90 days is not enough time to begin divorce proceedings.
Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act (USFSPA)
The Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection ACT (USFSPA) provides legal guidance to service members and Judges on how to address military divorce issues including spousal support, child support, and military pension and retirement division. This Act serves to protect the best interest of service members and help ensure that they do not receive an unjust outcome for their military divorce.
Military divorce has unique jurisdictional rules, meaning that service members can only file for divorce in certain states. If filing for a military divorce, service members can only file in their resident state, the service member’s station, or the legal state of residence (domicile) state.
As such, if you are living in Oklahoma City and stationed at Tinker Air Force Base, for example, you can file in the station or in Oklahoma State for military divorce. Oklahoma law requires that the service member or spouse must have resided in Oklahoma for at least 6 months before filing for a military divorce. A military divorce attorney can help you further understand jurisdictional issues and advise you on where it is best to file for divorce.
Military Divorce Issues in Oklahoma City
Military divorce issues can be significantly more complex than standard divorce proceedings. As service members are protected by federal acts and statutes, those filing for a military divorce need to understand how family law issues are dealt with under these statutes. Hiring an experienced military divorce attorney can help ensure that you have a good understanding of your legal rights as a service member and help ensure that your best interests are protected.
In both civilian and military divorce cases, the best interests of the child are paramount in child custody proceedings. These custody matters can be incredibly challenging since parents may hold divergent views on what is ideal for the children. In the context of military divorce, the dynamic is further complicated when one or both parents are active service members. Their deployment can make maintaining a consistent child custody arrangement difficult. Thus, it’s essential to consult a military divorce attorney who can guide couples toward a fair custody arrangement, both permanent and temporary, accommodating service deployments.
Additionally, for those navigating child custody in Oklahoma, it’s vital to recognize that your custody decisions may be influenced by the Hague Convention and Oklahoma’s Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (“UCCJEA”). This act encompasses issues such as child custody arrangements, abandonment, abduction, and other matters linked to the child’s best interests. A divorce attorney from Cannon & Associates can clarify the implications of this jurisdiction on your situation.
Our military divorce attorneys can also provide insight and guidance on many military family law issues, including:
- Child custody arrangements to meet the unique geographic challenges service members face from PCS moves, active duty tours, and other service-related travel
- Child support considerations for service members and their unique and varied forms of compensation
- Your rights and protections associated with being a service member facing child custody or divorce issues while deployed or on orders away from home
Regardless of whether you yourself are a service member or the other parent to your children is a service member, Oklahoma law requires family law judges to consider the “best interest of the child” in deciding child custody. Courts must consider the physical, mental, and moral welfare of a child in determining child custody pursuant to OKLA. STAT. tit. 43 § 109. It is crucial to your case that you retain an Oklahoma military family law attorney with experience presenting the side of service members to advocate in your Oklahoma child custody case.
Child support arrangements, like most financial military divorce issues, fall under the jurisdiction of the Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act (USFSPA). Similar to standard divorce proceedings, child support amounts are determined using the Oklahoma Child Support Guidelines. However, the salary and gross income that is taken into consideration in military divorces are different from civilian divorces.
When determining a child support arrangement in a military divorce, the Judge must look at a number of different factors, such as deployment, the amount of service income that should be included in the calculation, re-enlistment bonuses, and whether fee on-base housing can affect your income. An Oklahoma City military divorce attorney from our law firm can help determine your gross income, fight to ensure that you are not left empty-handed because of a child support arrangement, and ensure that all money in a child support arrangement goes towards your children.
Retirement Benefits and Military Pensions
Retirement benefits are one of the most contested issues during a military divorce. Many service members worry about their future military pensions being reduced substantially through a divorce and not having a significant source of income after retirement. Many service members rely entirely on the income they receive from the military, and hope that their military pensions will be able to support them after they retire.
Like child support, retirement benefits are dealt with under the USFSPA. Depending on the circumstances, military pensions and retirement benefits can be viewed as ‘marital property, which allows for a positive outcome for spouses who remained at home during the course of a marriage.
Generally, the division of military pensions follows a 10/10/10 rule. This rule provides that partners must be married for at least 10 years, the service member in the relationship must have at least 10 creditable service years, and these ten years must overlap. If these conditions are satisfied, the ex-spouse will be compensated by the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS).
Depending on your particular situation, however, these rules may not always apply. Oklahoma law on retirement division and benefits may also be taken into consideration in your case. One of the military divorce lawyers from our law firm can help you understand how the retirement division will work in your case and help ensure that your retirement benefits are not reduced substantially because of a divorce.
Property division can often get quite confused in a military divorce, particularly because service members often relocate to different areas of the country and the world and may have claims to property in different locations. As such, when filing for a military divorce in Oklahoma City, OK, it is important to understand the equitable division laws that apply within the state.
Oklahoman family law provides that courts can make judgments over property in different states when it comes to divorce. However, these rules may differ when it concerns a military divorce. If you have separate assets or property in another state that are independent of the marriage, these assets will remain separate in a military divorce.
Should I Hire a Military Divorce Attorney in Oklahoma City?
Going through a military divorce can be significantly more complicated than a standard divorce proceeding. As discussed, there are many different laws that apply to service members which provide extra protection and guidance for military divorce proceedings. If you are a service member, you probably feel quite anxious about going through a divorce and trying to understand the complexities of property division, child custody issues, and military retirement division.
Trying to understand these complexities without an experienced military divorce attorney can be difficult, so we strongly advise you to seek legal counsel. Even if you and your ex-spouse agree on all or most issues, having a lawyer can ensure that you do not sign up for an agreement you regret in a couple of years. Divorce decrees are final, which is why you should ensure that you agree with all of the terms set forth in the settlement.
An experienced military divorce lawyer can help you understand what you are entitled to, advise you on how your retirement benefits and salary should be divided, help you understand child custody issues, and protect your best interest. They can negotiate with your partner’s lawyer on your behalf to ensure that any agreement you make is equitable and fair. A military divorce attorney can help you understand jurisdictional issues and advise you on where you are able to file for divorce, and what would be in your best interests.
The only way to ensure that your rights as a service member in Oklahoma City are protected and that you get the best possible outcome for your divorce decree is to hire an experienced military divorce lawyer.
Fact or Fiction in Military Divorces
Clients and lawyers make costly mistakes far too often in military divorces. Oftentimes, these mistakes in military divorces are based on a client or lawyer taking fiction as fact based upon “barracks lawyers” or a divorce attorney being unaware of the protections provided to service members and the rules of military retirement division. Judge Advocate John Cannon is a Fierce Advocate for every client, especially service members and their families when facing military divorce or division of military pension or retirement.
MISTAKES AT THE START OF THE CASE
FICTION: You can sue for military divorce in any state in order to target military pension division, false. The military pension and military retirement must be sought in the service member’s state of legal residence, unless they waive this protection.
FACT #1: Your chosen military divorce lawyer should sue in the state of the service member’s legal residence. The legal resident state or “domicile” of the service member guarantees your access to seeking division of military retirement or military pension.
Federal law governs military pension division; specifically the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act (“USFSPA”). This federal law dictates, you can always obtain military retirement division in the service member’s state of domicile. Seeking division of military pension or retirement in a military divorce in any other state is risky and may result in your inability to divide the pension.
Your chosen military divorce lawyer should be well versed in the protections afforded to service members or their spouses under state law. In Oklahoma, the law provides protections to both service members and their spouses in contested military divorce actions. Not all state court rules on military pension division are the same. Service members, to some extent, have the ability to select the forum for their military divorce. It is important you exercise your rights to seek or protect military benefits.
FACT #2: Speak to a qualified military divorce lawyer before you file anything in court. Your answer to a pension division may result in your being forced to resolve your military divorce in that jurisdiction. Filing an answer to a petition for division of a military pension may result in your granting consent to the court’s jurisdiction. You must file an objection at the start of your case in order to protect your jurisdictional claim on this issue. However, you may be forced to proceed with your military divorce in two jurisdictions for a period of time, until a decision on jurisdiction is made by the court.
CAN YOU PAUSE A MILITARY DIVORCE PROCEEDING?
Possibly, the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (“SCRA”) is a federal law that allows the SM to obtain a stay of proceedings, much like a continuance. A stay on proceedings will allow you to stop the military divorce case from moving forward for a period of time. When military duty requires you to be outside of the jurisdiction or unable to appear in court, the SCRA and your military divorce attorney can stay the proceedings for a period of time.
FACT #3: The SCRA provides a necessary stay of military divorce proceedings when needed. Service members may receive consequences for abusing this privilege. An initial SCRA stay of military divorce proceedings requires a notice to the court hearing the case. The statement must indicate the service member’s military duties prevent him or her from currently participating in the military divorce. Additionally, the statement to the court must be accompanied by a statement from the service member’s commanding officer, which indicates his or her military duties prevent him or her from appearing and answering the military divorce action and his or her leave is not granted.
Subsequent SCRA stays may be granted with sufficient and specific information provided by you or your military divorce attorney. It is important you or your military divorce attorney articulate how your responding to the lawsuit or leaving duty/training will have a negative impact on your military training or service obligation. Courts deny SCRA stays, sanction or punish service members that mischaracterize their inability to appear in court for a military divorce action. Specifically, jurisdictions in Oklahoma with military bases, including: Oklahoma County with Tinker Air Force Base; Comanche County with Fort Sill; Garfield County with Vance Air Force Base; Pittsburg County with the Mcalester Army Ammunition Plant; or Jackson County with Altus Air Force Base.
HALF THE MILITARY PENSION?
FICTION: Some divorce attorneys or service members believe a non-service member spouse is entitled to half of the service members’ retirement, VA benefits, or military pension simply by marrying a service member, fiction.
FACT #4: The spouse of a service member, the non-service member spouse, is entitled to a “marital share”, not “half the military pension.” However, if the service member and non-service member spouse have been married for the entire military career, the non-service member spouse may be entitled to half the military pension or military retirement.
It is much more difficult to recover half of a military pension then accurately dividing the “marital share.” The marital share is the benefits/retirement points acquired during marriage and overlapping military service. A non-service member should only receive a portion of military retirement, while married and the service member spouse is receiving points towards military retirement. It is crucial you hire a military divorce attorney to ensure your future and portion of retirement is protected.
WHO GETS SURVIVOR BENEFIT PLAN?
FICTION: Some divorce attorneys or service members believe a surviving former spouse automatically receives the survivor benefit plan; however, that is not true.
FACT #5: Ignorance of the SBP (Survivor Benefit Plan) can cost you thousands of dollars.
A military divorce settlement or divorce decree should specific who receives the SBP. Typically, this is awarded to the non-military spouse, especially, if the marriage lasted for a substantial period of military service. In some cases, a former spouse will forfeit the SBP for another benefit, i.e. life insurance, which would allow the service member to retain the benefit for a future spouse.
SBP coverage provides the non-military spouse with 55% of the service member’s base military pension for the rest of their life, which is a huge benefit to a non-service member. Without SBP, a surviving spouse receives no military pension or military retirement compensation beyond the service member’s death. Without a court order concerning SBP, which is submitted to DFAS for military recording; it is the same as no agreement or court order. A military divorce attorney can help you ensure these benefits are recorded and received.
FICTION: My SBP rights are protected as long as the court order says so, fiction. You must submit the SBP court order to DFAS within the necessary time frame in order to receive the benefits.
FACT #6: You must meet one of two SBP deadlines.
One deadline applies if the service member submits the court order, which is one year following the military divorce decree being entered. The other deadline applies to the non-service member spouse submitting the court order for SBP coverage. When a non-service member spouse submits the SBP coverage order it must be within one year of the court order, not the military divorce decree. The non-service member’s DFAS request must include a “deemed election” request letter. “Former spouse” coverage must be specified in the order; naming the spouse is not enough for SBP beneficiary. Your chosen military divorce attorney must be familiar with this rule and ensure it is followed to protect your benefits.
FICTION: The timeline of my military divorce doesn’t affect my benefits, fiction. More deadlines exist than the SBP deadlines listed above. One of the most important is medical coverage for the former spouse of a military service member. Early retirement or rushing a military divorce can take away the non-service member’s medical benefits.
FACT #7: Don’t rush your military divorce or military retirement.
A former spouse is entitled to TRICARE and military medical treatment, if the 20-20-20 medical rule is met: military service of at least 20 years; a marriage that has lasted at least 20 years; and an overlap of the two for at least 20 years. TRICARE and military medical care are available when these conditions exist. It is a benefit to the non-service member with no expense to the service member spouse. In fact, it may save the service member spouse support alimony, if medical coverage is provided. Once this benefit is official with DFAS, the service member spouse does not have to do anything and the benefit will automatically be provided.
FACT #8: Garnishment attaches at ten years of marriage and military service overlap.
DFAS will send a check to the former non-service member spouse, out of the service member’s retirement pension as a garnishment, if the parties were married for ten years of good military service prior to divorce. DFAS garnishes and automatically sends out two checks after military divorce with appropriate tax withholdings. When the 10-10 DFAS rule is not met the non-service member spouse must look to the retiree for direct payment. However, the 10-10 overlap is not necessary for child support or alimony garnishment.
FACT #9: There is no time requirement for divisibility of the military pension.
Although the 10-10 rule is required in order for DFAS to garnish and directly provide pension payments; no time minimum exists to receive the benefit. A 10-10 overlap of marriage and military service means that the payment will come from DFAS if you serve the court order. Eligibility for a portion of military pension payment is automatic after any period of marriage; however, the amount of pension to the non-military spouse is dependent upon length of marriage and service.
DETAILS IN DIVORCE DECREE MATTER
FACT #10: There is not a specific share under federal law for the military spouse or non-military spouse.
Federal law makes military pension division available; however, state law dictates the requirements and process.
FACT #11: Disposable retired pay is often less than gross retired pay.
Gross military retired pay includes all entitlements for the retiree. Disposable Retired Pay (“DRP”) is a technical term which excludes medical retired pay, VA disability compensation, the SBP premium and Combat-Related Special Compensation. Receiving only a portion of DRP will greatly reduce the amount of support provided after a military divorce. In some cases, this difference will cost a client thousands of dollars.
FACT #12: A set dollar amount in the court order leaves the Cost-Of-Living-Adjustments (COLAs) to the retiree. In court orders included a set dollar amount the non-service member spouse does not receive any of the upward adjustments that are given for inflation and other benefits. However, percentage or formula division allows for sharing of the COLA between parties to a military divorce.
FACT #13: Military pension division requires a specialist.
You can have a military divorce attorney handle your military divorce. However, he or she can retain a specialist co-counsel to help with the military pension division. Currently serving Judge Advocates can assist you for free in drafting the military pension division order to protect everyone’s interests. Additionally, John Cannon is a currently serving Judge Advocate and versed in these issues. Legal assistance attorneys on base, such as Ft. Sill, Tinker AFB, Vance, AFB, Altus AFB, or McAlester Army Ammunition Plant are a great resource; however, they cannot appear at a contested court proceeding on your behalf.
FACT #14: Your military divorce attorney should submit your DFAS pension papers.
Competent representation in a military divorce action includes ensuring DFAS receives and accepts the court order designating division of the military pension, including: a military pension division order; DFAS Form 2293; and your court orders. It is very important to do this quickly to ensure you have time to correct any issue identified by DFAS.
PROBLEMS WITH SBP
FICTION: I can divide my SBP to multiple spouses or beneficiaries, false.
FACT #15: The SBP cannot be divided.
SBP can be waived, but it cannot be divided between multiple spouses, i.e. your current and former spouse.
FACT #16: SBP is not good if the former spouse remarries before age 55.
SBP coverage is not available when the former spouse marries before the age of 55; however, it can be reinstated, if that person’s new spouse dies or the marriage ends in a divorce or annulment.
FACT #17: An SGLI election is not enforceable against the military member spouse. The United States Supreme Court has ruled no service member can be compelled to elect a former spouse for SGLI.
FACT #18: DFAS won’t distribute SBP premiums between the parties. SBP premiums come “off the top” by law. They are deducted from gross pay to determine the Disposable Retired Pay. DRP is what DFAS divides as DFAS cannot apportion the SBP premium or 6.5% of the selected base amount, between the spouses.
FACT #19: The premium for SBP coverage is 6.5% of the selected base amount, which can be the service member’s entire retirement pay. The court order must specific what the base amount or DFAS will elect the full retired pay as the default. In order to protect against this, your military family law attorney must change the selection to the lower base amount for the SBP.
CAN I LOSE MONEY IN THIS PROCESS?
Yes, a common mistake for non-military former spouses is not knowing the VA waiver rules, which allow a retiree to waive a portion of military pension to receive VA disability compensation. All retiree service members may waive a portion of their pension, if he or she has a service connected disability. The money is not taxable and is not divisible.
FACT #20: An indemnification agreement can protect a former spouse from VA waiver. For a non-military spouse, a VA waiver can greatly reduce the benefits received from the Department of Veterans Affairs or DFAS. It is important to have a waiver clause in the military divorce decree or agreement, which requires the service member to repay any amount lost to the non-service member spouse, if disability compensation is taken from the pension.
FACT #21: You cannot forget to address the Thrift Savings Plan (“TSP”). Military members have multiple retirement assets, including TSP. The TSP account is similar to 401(k) or IRA. As you contribute the increase in value of the TSP grows tax free and may be used during retirement. Under Oklahoma law, the increase to this account during marriage is marital or community property and divisible.
FACT #22: You can seek a buyout of your share of a military pension.
You or your military divorce attorney can negotiate an exchange or buyout to compensate for the value of your share of military pension or retirement. Even a marriage that only lasts a few years may result in thousands of dollars of retirement compensation for the non-military member.
HOW DOES A PENSION BUYOUT WORK?
The service member spouse will have to pay an equivalent amount of compensation to not divide his or her military pension. As the non-military member spouse, you or your military divorce attorney must negotiate a fair trade. Ensure your military divorce attorney does a calculation that is fair to you.
When facing a military divorce or division of military retirement you should know what is Fact and what is Fiction.
Experienced Military Divorce Lawyer in Oklahoma City
At Cannon & Associates, our law firm has significant experience with military family law issues, such as divorce, child custody, and financial support. Our law firm helps soldiers, airmen, marines, sailors, coast guard, reservists, and guardsmen all throughout Oklahoma City who are going through a divorce or need legal guidance with family law issues. Our military divorce lawyers understand how important it is to protect the rights of service members and ensure that you get the best possible outcome with your divorce proceedings
The founder of our law firm, John Cannon, is currently serving as Judge Advocate in the Oklahoma National Guard and is highly experienced with military divorce and benefit division. In addition, one of our attorneys, S. Douglas Elliot, served 30 years in the military in the active component and the National Guard as a military lawyer. As a service member and JAG, he has knowledge of military divorce and has been consulted by the State Legislature on aspects of the legislation that now protect the parental rights of deployed service members and other military divorce law issues.
Our law firm has been consistently ranked as one of the top law firms in Oklahoma City, and many of our lawyers have won awards and recognitions for their hard work and dedication to clients. We know how difficult the divorce process can be, and we want to ensure that you feel confident going through your military divorce and that you get the support that you need.
Whether you or your family member is stated at Tinker AFB, Ft. Sill, Vance AFC, Altus AFB, McAlester Army Ammunition Army Base; a Reservist; or a National Guardsmen, CANNON & ASSOCIATES has been there before with clients facing Oklahoma military divorce.
Contact a Skilled OKC Military Divorce Lawyer Today!
Navigating a divorce, especially when children are involved a life has been built over the years, is undeniably challenging. This process is further complicated in the context of a military divorce. At such trying times, having an experienced family law attorney by your side is crucial. John Cannon, the owner of CANNON & ASSOCIATES, stands out as a dedicated advocate versed in military family law. As a judge advocate, John has a rich history of representing clients and securing optimal outcomes, highlighted by his top AVVO rating of 10 (superb). He prioritizes transparent communication and will be with you every step of the way, ensuring that you are always informed.
Furthermore, at Cannon & Associates, our team comprises divorce lawyers who have served in the military and possess extensive expertise in military divorce cases. We recognize the unique challenges military veterans face, especially the potential risks to the benefits earned during service. Our objective is to guide you through the legal intricacies of military divorce, safeguarding your best interests and striving for a positive case resolution. If you find yourself amidst an Oklahoma military divorce or custody battle, whether you’re in Oklahoma City, Edmond, Norman, Yukon, Mustang, The Village, Moore, or Midwest City, don’t hesitate to reach out. As your Fierce Advocates, we’re committed to upholding your rights as a service member. Contact us today at 405-591-3935 for a free and confidential consultation.
Our Client Reviews
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"John Cannon is an awesome attorney. He is very professional and honest. He really cares about his clients. John always gets back to you quickly to answer any questions you have regarding your case. I highly recommend CANNON & ASSOCIATES for any legal needs you may have."
"John Cannon has helped me through the hardest time in my life. He helped me through my divorce and custody case. He truly cares about his clients and it made me so happy he always put my daughter first and wanted what was in her best interest as a child. He is very sharp and resourceful and he has been very attentive and responsive to my needs, John is very polite and professional and he always has a great attitude. John always took the time to go over everything and explain everything in depth. I've enjoyed working with John and his team and would recommend him to other clients."
"I have known John for about 6 years now in his capacity as a Judge Advocate and a civilian attorney. John has a rare blend of both sharp analytical and interpersonal skills. I have seen John achieve positive outcomes for clients in complex scenarios and If you need an attorney who can do the same for you - this is your guy."
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"John Cannon is an excellent attorney. He takes sincere interest in your needs. He maintains communication and provides all the information you might want to fully understand the legal process. He also suggests alternative resolutions to your legal needs so that you can make informed choices. I definitely recommend John."
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"Mr. Cannon has represented me on 2 criminal cases and one civil case over the past 4 years. He has always served me honestly, speedily and with good moral direction. John has integrity and humility. He has never belittled me or treated me in an unfair manor. I appreciate all that he has done for me and I most certainly recommend him to family, strangers and friends. I will definitely use Mr. Cannon in the future for any and all of my family's legal matters."
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