At our Elk River law firm, we sometimes handle divorces for military families. Our clients want to know how the law affects them when they—or their spouses—are in the military. We tell them that, generally, divorces are the same for military personnel as they are for civilians. But, things can get more complicated, especially when divorces involve long deployments, military pensions and housing benefits.
Here’s a quick rundown of some additional laws and factors that make military divorces different, like changes in the divorce process, how courts divide assets and consider child custody.
The Divorce Process May Take Longer for Military Families
The divorce process may take longer if a military spouse is on active duty. When deployments take the servicemember away from home for long periods of time, a law called the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) protects them.
Usually, when one spouse serves another with divorce papers, the other spouse must respond within a limited number of days. The SCRA allows the military spouse to request a stay that delays the proceedings if their military duties prevent them from participating in the court action.
The Law Gives Financial Protection to Spouses of Servicemembers
The Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act (USFSPA) is a law that offers financial protection to former spouses of servicemembers in some situations. The law allows states to divide military retired pay as marital property. It means that courts can order that a non-military spouse be paid a share of military retired pay and obtain medical care and certain other benefits after a divorce. If the court orders child support or alimony, that amount can be taken out of the military spouse’s retired pay and sent to the other spouse.
Of course, spouses must meet certain requirements. There are limits, too. For example, in Minnesota the combination of spousal support and child support can’t total more than 60 percent of the servicemember’s pay and allowances.
Courts Consider Child Custody and Visitation Differently for Military Families
In 2015, Minnesota enacted something called the Uniform Deployed Parents Custody and Visitation Act. The Act balances the rights of the service member, the other parent and the best interests of the children involved. It helps ensure that deploying parents aren’t penalized for their service. At the same time, it acknowledges that deployment has a big impact on the left-behind parent and the child.
The bill prohibits entering a permanent custody order while a service member is deployed. It also keeps a court from considering only a parent’s past deployment or possible future deployment when determining the best interests of the child. These protections can help keep children connected with their military parents after a divorce.
Curious to Know How These Laws May Affect You? Call Our Law Firm.
Of course, these laws affect each family differently and can be very complex. The best way to get real answers about your situation is to talk with a lawyer. You’re always welcome to talk with an attorney at White & Associates.