BASICS OF A MILTARY DIVORCE
Filing the paperwork for the Divorce
In any court case that is filed, the court must have “jurisdiction” to hear the particular matter. This is true of all cases, not just divorce cases. In most cases, you must file for divorce in a state where the military spouse is domiciled or a resident, or in a state that you and your spouse both agree to. Residency is determined and subject to the residency requirement of the particular State, and these requirement vary. In Maryland the residency requirement for a divorce is 1 year, but for child custody cases the residency requirement is 6 months. Other states have different requirements.
Domicile is defined as “That place where a man has his true, fixed, permanent home and principal establishment, and to which whenever he is absent he has the intention of returning.” “As ‘domicile’ and ‘residence’ are usually the same place, they are frequently used as if they had the same meaning, but they are not identical terms, for a person may have two places of residence, as in the city and country, but only one domicile. Residence means living in a particular locality, but domicile means living in that locality with intent to make it a fixed and permanent home. Residence simple requires bodily presence as an inhabitant in a given place, while domicile requires bodily presence in that place and also an intention to make it one’s domicile. In re Riley’s Will, 266 N.Y.S. 209, 148 Misc. 588.” Blacks Law Dictionary 572 (5th ed. Rev. 1979). http://www.uscg.mil/LSC/Alameda/docs/Residency
Child Custody and Visitation
Sharing custody of children after a divorce is always challenging. For military personnel, custody and visitation can be complicated by frequent moves and uncertainty about future deployment. Again, each state has their own factors that are used when determining custody. These factors usually can all be summarized and become part of the ultimate question for the court, “what is in the child(ren)’s best interest”.
Support for Children and Spouses
Like everyone else, service members are legally required to support their children. The Department of Defense requires service members to comply with support, custody, and visitation orders. In fact, the military provides for sanctions, including punishment as severe as separation from military service, for failure to pay support. (Possibly for this reason, support compliance rates are significantly higher among military personnel than among civilians.)
Because military paychecks are unlike any other paychecks, it can be a real challenge to determine what a service member’s actual pay is. Since parent’s income is always the basis for calculating child support, it is critical to get this part of the calculation correct. To get started with your state’s child support guidelines, you’ll need to know the service member’s income as well as the amount of any payments the service member is making for the children’s health insurance or for work-related day care.
Although child support and alimony are mostly controlled by individual states, but there are unique issues for military spouses. These include calculating income, which in turn affects how support amounts are calculated, enforcing support orders when the service member is deployed, and modification of any support agreements.
Pension Rights and Other Benefits
In Maryland, one party’s income is considered a gift to the other and vice versa. Employment benefits, including retirement and pension benefits, are merely income that has been earned but gets paid out at a later time. As such all of these benefits of employment are subject to division in your divorce according to the law of the state of Maryland.
You Will Need Legal Help
Unless the service member in your family has been in the military an extremely short time and you have limited assets, you absolutely shouldn’t negotiate your divorce or sign a settlement agreement without at least consulting a lawyer experienced in military divorce. Most likely, you’re going to want to hire a lawyer to represent you all through the divorce.