Navigating the Military Divorce
Divorce affects many families across the US, military families included. Logistically, the traditional divorce process may be complicated if one spouse is deployed or on active-duty. Financially, military pay and benefits are structured differently than civilian earnings and benefits. This may affect how child support and alimony are calculated. And emotionally, it can be very challenging to get through a divorce if you are deployed, on base, or otherwise away from your support group. Fortunately, military members can benefit from certain reliefs to make the process go as smooth as possible.
The Basics of Military Divorce
A military divorce is similar to a civilian divorce. There are a few additional policies and stipulations you should be aware of, though. In civilian divorces, one spouse must establish residency to file for divorce in Massachusetts. If you are in the military, however, you may not need to establish residency to file in Massachusetts. In general, you can file for divorce where you are living at that time. Military members are required to provide child support and alimony to their dependents during a divorce. Their service division may dictate how much support should be paid if the spouses do not have an agreement or a court order. For military benefits, such as insurance or retirement pay, three factors will determine spousal eligibility:
- The length of the marriage
- The length of the years of service of the servicemember
- The overlap between the marriage and the years of service
A military spouse may be eligible for full benefits if the length of the marriage, the length of the service, and the overlap between them are all twenty years. As these factors change, so will the benefits eligibility.
Retirement benefits are similar because military pensions are governed by certain rules. Custody and parenting time are also very real concerns of many military families facing divorce. Typically, it is best if the parents can reach an agreement on custody, as only they know the unique circumstances their servicemember family can face. In any case, make sure you consult with a divorce professional regarding custody.
If you need one-on-one help with your military divorce, consider divorce mediation. Mediation is much more flexible than divorce litigation. If you take your divorce to court, the process could be dramatically slowed down because of a deployment. Military law protects divorcing spouses by allowing divorce proceedings to be “stayed” or postponed if a servicemember is unable to be present. Mediation eliminates the need for hearings to be postponed. Some mediators can even facilitate phone conference or video conference sessions. This can help spouses divorce even when deployed. And, while you may get servicemember legal assistance with certain areas of your divorce, you will still need to consult with a Massachusetts divorce mediator to ensure your separation agreement is in accordance with state and federal law and your rights are protected.
Do you have questions about military divorce? Mediation Advantage Services can help. Experienced in divorce mediation, Law Office of Polly Tatum can help you and your spouse mediate around your schedule and circumstances. Based in historic Worcester with a satellite office in Northboro, MA, our firm serves all cities and towns throughout Massachusetts and Worcester County including, Auburn, Paxton, Leicester, Sutton, Grafton, Shrewsbury, Westboro, Northboro, Southboro, Holden, Sterling, Princeton, Worcester, Charlton, Millbury, Dudley, Spencer, Brookfield, Sudbury, Natick, Framingham, Hopkinton, Milford, Blackstone, Leominster, Fitchburg, Acton, Jefferson, Barre, Oakham, Cambridge, Newton, Marlboro, Lancaster, Bolton, and Hudson. Call our office at (508) 466-4734, fill out our online form, or email us at [email protected] today to schedule your Complimentary Mediation Success Planning Session. You can also sign up for our eNewsletter or download our free e-book for more information regarding divorce in Massachusetts.