Divorces can be a messy and emotional process, but when one spouse is in the military, you face a unique set of challenges that civilians don’t have to deal with. Everything from custody matters to the issue of military retirement benefits will be contested, which means you probably have a ton of questions. Below you’ll find answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about military divorces.
Q: Where should I file for divorce?
A: As a military officer, you have the option to divorce in the state where you are considered domiciled, the state where your spouse resides, or any other jurisdiction upon which you and your spouse mutually agree on. Determining your state of domicile is based on voter registration, vehicle registrations, your address and other factors.
Q: What happens if my spouse divorces me while I’m deployed?
A: Active duty military members are protected from being held in “default” for not responding to a divorce petition while on duty. Additionally, you must be served in person for a state court to have jurisdiction over the case.
Q: Is my spouse entitled to a portion of my military retirement benefits?
Under the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act (USFSPA), military spouses are not automatically entitled to a portion of an officer’s retirement benefits. Since California is a community property state, the courts may divide the retirement benefits depending on overlap between marriage and months of service.
Q: How much will I pay in child support?
Child support payments are determined upon both your incomes. As a military officer, the courts will take into account that your qualifying income may not equate to the amount you are required to report on your federal tax returns.
Q: How much will I pay in alimony?
Again, this depends on many factors, all of which an attorney can explain to you.
Q: Can I get custody if I’m deployed?
Being deployed does not necessarily mean you have to give up your right to custody, but it does present an issue. In a military divorce, you must establish a family care plan and understand how the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) can delay custody proceedings until you return from overseas.
Q: Do I need a lawyer?
Military divorces can be extremely complex and it’s important to have experienced legal counsel to protect your rights. An attorney who focuses on family law matters can provide you with detailed and personalized legal representation.
If you would like to discuss your military divorce, contact our Newport Beach military divorce attorneys at Burch, Coulston & Shepard, LLP today.
Call (949) 565-4158 or contact us online to speak with an attorney.