To begin with, let’s state the fact that there is civilian divorce and there is a military divorce. In some ways they are exactly the same. They take place in a state court before a state judge and the ‘irreconcilable differences’ clause is the most quoted reason as being the cause of the divorce. But there is one major difference between a military and a civil divorce –a member of the armed services cannot have a divorce action taken against him or her if they are serving overseas. Once that overseas active duty is over, the proceedings may begin.
But the armed services can be said to look after their own and provides medical, education and housing benefits and, when retirement looms, a pension.
Now, in any divorce, the case usually involves splitting the assets. Who gets the family home, etc? In a military divorce, the benefits of the military spouse may continue to be afforded to the non-military spouse. It could be because the military divorce law is a minefield of rules and there are exceptions to those rules.
Everything as far as benefits are concerned depends on the length of the marriage, the length of time the military spouse spent in the service and the cross-over period of these two factors. A couple could be married for 25 years but if the military spouse was only in the service for 5 of those 25 years, that places the non-military spouse in a poor position. The longer the over-lapping periods of marriage and service, the better the result.
Now, members of the military, depending on their length of service, get a pension when they leave the service. Divorce courts regard this pension as an asset just like a house or car. It is able to be shared by the non-military spouse after a divorce. In fact the pension can flow to the non-military spouse even if the former spouse dies. It can become a pension for life.
There are exceptions of course and it is these exceptions or rules within the rules which only a lawyer experienced in military divorce can properly explain.
Do not count on obtaining free legal advice from within the military. They do offer a service but not anything specific when it comes to divorce. Of course they want marriages to be happy because a military divorce means a greater drain on the armed services’ budget but a private lawyer and one who deals in military divorce is not just the best person but really the only type of professional help to obtain.
Remember that retirement pay or a military pension is split according to the rulings of the state divorce court. How long the couple has been married is one obvious factor which the divorce judge will consider. You can read the legislation online regarding military divorce and the section on retirement pay, but you will save your time and money by engaging a military divorce expert.