The logistics of divorce can be overwhelming, and that’s before you add in the fact that your spouse isn’t even in the same country. Military marriages can be tumultuous and full of unique challenges, and if you’ve arrived at the decision to divorce, you likely want to move forward as quickly as possible.
We are here to help you during this difficult time. To set up a consultation and discuss your options, call Coumanis & York at 251-990-3083.
Challenges of Military Marriages
Divorce rates in the military are slightly higher than divorce rates for civilians, with enlisted troops reporting considerably higher rates than officers. When you consider the difficulties posed by deployments, this may not come as much of a surprise.
No matter how strong a marriage is when both parties live together and see each other every day, going months without seeing each other and without regular, meaningful contact creates an environment where doubt flourishes. Some experts believe that the risk of divorce increases with each month that one spouse is away. Divorce rates are even higher for those deployed in areas with active combat.
People often feel shame when they choose to divorce a military spouse. However, you’re not alone. The military puts enormous stress on relationships, and divorce is inevitable in some cases.
Beginning the Process with an Attorney
If you choose to divorce your military spouse while they’re overseas, you’ll need to plan for additional hurdles. First, get familiar with the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. Under the SCRA, servicemembers can enjoy protection against civil proceedings. It protects servicemembers from going to court for divorce while overseas by allowing them to request a 90-day extension. This gives military spouses time to explore their options and prevents them from being blindsided by divorce paperwork while serving their country overseas.
This doesn’t mean that you’ll automatically be able to move forward with the divorce after a 90-day waiting period. In fact, you may have to wait until your spouse returns to the United States, depending on the circumstances of their deployment. If your spouse is deployed in a classified area where their specific location cannot be determined, you may not even be able to have them served with papers.
Waiting Until After Deployment
If the additional challenges posed by an overseas divorce are too time-consuming for you, you may consider waiting until after your spouse’s deployment is complete. While this does require you to be married for a longer period of time, it may make the actual divorce process quicker once your spouse returns to the country.
However, don’t automatically assume you have to wait until your spouse’s deployment is over. If they are in a safe area without active combat, you may be able to get the process rolling and limit direct contact with your spouse.
Standard Divorce Proceedings
With the exception of the delays caused by a deployment and the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, the rest of your divorce proceedings should go as they do in every other divorce. Your military spouse will be able to request help from legal assistance attorneys, although these attorneys can generally not represent them during the actual divorce. The military does require its members to provide proper support for their children, which may make the process of getting child support easier.
It’s crucial to be represented by a skilled and experienced divorce attorney throughout this entire process. No matter how amicable the process may seem at the beginning, any type of disagreement can drive up the pressure and lead to contention. There’s a lot at stake in a divorce, from the division of assets to child custody and child support. You absolutely need an attorney with substantial experience in military divorce who will fight for your best interests.
Custody is Much More Challenging
Service members have just as much of a right to their children as civilians do, but deployments and out-of-state training can make it difficult to use their parenting time. Because of this, plan on a more complex custody battle. The court will still focus on the best interests of the child, as it always does, but that no longer means automatically giving primary custody to the non-enlisted parent. The court will still look for ways to ensure that both parents get substantial time with their children.
Plan on a Long Wait
The divorce process is fairly straightforward for civilians. After one party is served with divorce papers, they have a limited amount of time to respond. If they don’t respond or show up to court, the divorce is generally automatically granted. The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), gives service members more leeway when it comes to responding to court action. If a service member is engaged in active duty, they have the right to delay proceedings until they can respond appropriately.
Child Support and Alimony Deductions Are Limited
To start, know that the military expects its members to support their children. There is no getting around that. This doesn’t mean, though, that their income can be drained dry to support their spouse and children. Currently, deductions for spousal and child support are limited to 50% to 65% of their disposable income. Disposable income is calculated by the court after accounting for baseline expenses.
You’ll Have to Think About Your Healthcare
In civilian divorces, there’s no option for a divorced individual to keep healthcare coverage under their ex-spouse’s plan. However, in some circumstances, divorced military spouses can continue receiving Tricare benefits. No-cost coverage is obviously a huge benefit, but it is only available in divorces that follow the 20/20/20 rule (the couple must have been married for at least 20 years and the service member must have served at least 20 years).
Discuss Your Options with Coumanis & York
If you’ve decided that divorce is your best option, ensure that you have the support you need to make this process as streamlined and stress-free as possible. The team at Coumanis & York can help you fight for what you deserve and assist you as you prepare to start a new chapter in life. Set up a consultation now by giving us a call at 251-990-3083 and reaching out to our team .