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Advocating For You

3 military divorce mistakes to avoid

Couples filing for a divorce already face a complex, confusing court process, let alone being divorcing military spouses. Special rules apply to United States service members and their ex-spouses when they divorce.

The different requirements include service of process, filing requirements, spousal support payments and the division of military pensions. Knowing the laws that affect military divorce will minimize costly mistakes.

1. Ignoring the Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP).

The divorce settlement should include who gets the SBP. If the non-military spouse has been with their service member partner for a substantial part of the marriage, he or she will ordinarily get the SBP.

SBP coverage gives the non-military spouse who survives the veteran 55% of the base pension for the rest of his or her life.

2. Not suing the service member in the legal residence state.

The safe practice to ensure the division of the pension is to sue the service member in his or her domicile. The Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act (USFSPA) states that the ex-spouse can obtain military retirement division in the legal residence state. If another state court oversees the divorce case, the pension division is up to whether the service member consents to the court’s jurisdiction.

3. Being unfamiliar with “marital share.”

Marital share is the property and assets gained while serving in the U.S. Armed Forces during the marriage. The marital share spans from the start of military service or the date of marriage (whichever happened later) and stops on the date of marital separation.

An incorrect calculation of this percentage means the service member might give up more of his or her pension than is necessary.