Common Mistakes Made in Military Divorces

Divorce decree, two gold wedding bands, a gavel, and an American flag.

Although all divorces involve the same emotional aspects, there are significant details that come with a military divorce that you are unlikely to find in civilian divorces. Because of their unique elements, it is common for those not experienced in military divorce to make some mistakes or overlook some important details. Therefore, it is imperative that you employ an experienced divorce attorney who has years of experience with military divorces.

Failure to Address a Survivor Benefit Plan

A Survivor Benefit Plan is an additional benefit provided to servicemembers; however, it must be opted into. This plan is similar to an insurance policy as it allows the service member to designate a beneficiary to receive a portion of their retirement payments after their death. This can significantly increase a spouse’s financial ground for negotiations; however, it may be easily overlooked as it is not an automatic program the servicemember is engaged in.

Failure to Address Loss of Benefits

There are a large number of benefits provided to a military member and their family that become a part of their everyday lives. Because of their common use, they can be easily forgotten, yet such failure could be costly. The retention of benefits is determined by the length of the marriage, the length of service by the military member, and the overlap in time between the service and marriage. These regulations are known as the 20/20/20 and 20/20/15 rules. If you have a marriage duration of 20 plus years, a military membership for 20 plus years, and the two times overlap for a period of 20 plus years, the nonmilitary spouse will be able to retain all benefits provided by the military. However, if the overlap is only 15 years, the spouse will only be able to retain healthcare benefits for a short duration. Finally, if you meet neither of these requirements you will lose all benefits previously provided to you. This can be costly to the spouse and therefore should be addressed and accounted for in a divorce settlement.

Failure to Address Travel Concerns with Child Custody

It is inevitable that a military member will be moved multiple times throughout their career. However, these moves can severely impact child custody travel arrangements. When children have to travel to spend time with a parent, there are a great deal of costs, scheduling, and planning that may be involved, and when co-parents have not previously addressed these obstacles arguments can arise. Failure to address the change in stations by a military member may result in more arguments regarding children in the future. Therefore, it is important to designate within your divorce settlement the times of visitation, who will bear the cost of travel, and what mode of transportation will be used.

Improper Calculation of Income

As a member of the military, you are provided with a unique variation of income, and therefore it is easy to overlook certain items when attempting to calculate a spouse’s income. For instance, within a military member’s income they are allotted extra income depending upon the number of dependents in their household, the location of their base, and deployment. These are labeled as cost of living adjustments, basic allowance for housing, and hazard pay. Failure to properly account for these items of a servicemembers base income can result in improper calculations for child support and alimony.

These common mistakes can be costly in your military divorce. Therefore, it is important to be informed of the particular details and even more important to be represented by a divorce attorney with significant experience with military divorces.

Speaking to an attorney at our Pensacola office is free of charge, and we accept calls 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Call us at (800) 822-5170 or complete an online contact form to get in touch with a member of our team today.

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