Three things to know about divorce, if you're a member of the military

As a member of the U.S. Armed Forces, you live in a different world. You encounter challenges that many civilians could not imagine, and you operate within a system separate from mainstream society.

For you, divorce also comes with different operating procedures. Here are three things you should know about ending your marriage:

1. You can choose in which state you want to file for divorce.

Military OneSource, funded by the Department of Defense, points out that service members have the option of filing for divorce in one of three places:

  • The state in which you are stationed
  • The state in which you are considered a legal resident
  • The state where your non-military spouse lives

Before making this decision, it's wise to consult an attorney experienced in military divorce issues. He or she will be able to advise you about how your choice may affect the proceedings. For instance, if you are dividing a military pension, you may need to file in the state in which you maintain legal residency.

2. If you're on active duty, you can put a temporary stop to a divorce or a child custody hearing.

The Servicemember's Civil Relief Act of 2003 (SCRA), sometimes still referred to as the Soldiers' and Sailors' Civil Relief Act, gives you important rights as an active-duty member of the military. One of these rights is to halt any divorce proceedings or child custody hearings for at least 90 days. This extra time gives you a chance to focus on your military duties instead of worrying about having to appear in court.

3. Your ex-spouse is only entitled to full benefits if he or she meets the "20/20/20 rule."

Your ex-spouse can only claim full commissary, exchange and health care benefits if he or she has not remarried and meets the following criteria:

  • The marriage lasted at least 20 years.
  • You have performed at least 20 years of military service that is eligible for retirement benefits.
  • Your eligible military service and your marriage overlapped for at least 20 years.

Learn more about how military service affects divorce in New York and elsewhere by contacting an accomplished family law attorney.

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