The Government Accountability Office reported in May 2013 that there are currently 1.4 million active duty American service members. In 2011, at 3.7%, the divorce rate among military personnel was at its highest since 1999, and though it had been steadily rising over the past decade, there was a slight decrease in 2012 to 3.5%. Though members of the military are subject to the same laws as civilians seeking a divorce, there are often factors specific to the military that affect dissolution of marriage involving service members.
Each state legislates residency requirements for divorce filings. However, many jurisdictions relax these requirements for military members. For example, Texas offers concessions for military state residents serving outside the state or the U.S. and for non-resident service members who are stationed in Texas.
Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act
This federal law acknowledges the rights of state courts to allocate a service member’s retirement pay to spouses, and provides a method of enforcing these court orders through the Department of Defense. States may categorize this pay as property instead of income. The USFSPA also offers guidance for determining alimony and child support.
Moves and Deployments
Due to the lifestyle of military families, non-military spouses often experience unemployment or underemployment. This frequently leads to a greater need for alimony. Young children are also a common component, resulting in a large focus on child support and custody, which is largely affected by the service member’s frequent moves and deployments.
Traditional Divorce vs. Military Divorce
Essentially, a military divorce is the same thing as a civilian divorce and the laws governing the procedure are determined by the jurisdiction in which the divorce is being sought. However, some issues are largely affected by the soldier’s military service, and the USFSPA may play an important role in the process. These are complex issues and the counsel of an attorney experienced in military divorces is invaluable. If you or your spouse is a member of the armed forces and you are contemplating dissolution of marriage in New Jersey, contact Castonovo & McKinney, Family & Divorce Law to learn how we can assist you.