If you are divorcing a spouse who serves in the military, there are three major issues that usually will be your foremost concerns. They are spousal support, child custody and division of the military pension.
What’s your number one priority?
Childless couples don’t have to worry about battling it out over custody of the kids, but they can still quibble over the other two matters. Parents typically are most concerned over custody of minor children. Service members subject to deployment normally won’t seek or be awarded sole or primary custody of the kids. The service member can instead request liberal visitation rights that can include some atypical types of visitation, e.g., nightly Skype or Facetime chats in lieu of actual physical visitation during deployments.
Military spouses often are under- or unemployed throughout the duration of the marriage simply because their spouse’s frequent moves make establishing a meaningful career fruitless and frustrating. If they married young, the spouse may not have had the opportunity to complete a post-secondary education, further limiting employment opportunities.
Balancing the scales in military divorces
Courts have begun to recognize that the sacrifices made by military spouses should be fairly compensated. For instance, a wife who spent decades raising children and keeping the home fires burning for her military spouse may be awarded a larger than usual amount of spousal support. Child support could be increased based on the same principle.
There is also the military pension to consider for spouses wed to service members for specific portions of their military service. The ins and outs of the pension division are too extensive to delve into in this blog entry, but suffice it to say that this is a major asset that should not be overlooked when divvying up the marital property.
A final asset to consider
Serving in the military is a dangerous job even on a good day. On the worst, it can be deadly. If you are divorcing a service member, you can request that you and the children be listed as beneficiaries of the Service Members Group Life Insurance (SGLI) policy. The divorce judgment can stipulate that a certain amount be immediately deposited in the ex-spouse’s account, with the remainder put into trust funds for the children.
Military divorces are similar to non-military divorces, but deal with aspects that are not addressed in a typical Washington divorce. Because of this, it’s generally better to retain an attorney who is familiar with handling military divorces.