Military Divorce in New Jersey
Families in the military face many similar struggles as other Americans, but military families seeking a divorce also often encounter unique legal obstacles. Some of these special considerations include division of military and pension benefits, selecting the appropriate jurisdiction in which to file for divorce, and issues surrounding custody and visitation. Because service members have certain rights and obligations that civilians do not, a military divorce can be complicated.
Filing for Divorce
The general rule any type of court case is to file within the jurisdiction of residence. However, the process is slightly more complex when it comes to military families, who tend to move more frequently than civilians. Frequently in military divorces, families will mutually agree that a specific state has jurisdiction.
The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) is a federal law that affords service members special treatment in court proceedings in the United States. It enables service members to obtain a delay in any court or agency proceeding that might affect their rights, so they can focus on their important work for the country. However, a child’s needs will often come before the SCRA rules in judges’ orders.
Military personnel have the same obligation as civilians to financially support their minor children—both mothers and fathers. However, for military parents, the Department of Defense requires service members to comply with support, custody, and visitation orders. A failure to comply with these orders can result in sanctions, up to and including mandatory separation from service.
For this reason, child support compliance rates are higher for military parents. However, there are cases when people fail to pay. If a military parent is deployed and fails to pay, a skilled child support lawyer can help the custodial parent enforce the child support agreement.
Child Custody and Visitation
Issues involving child custody and support tend to be some of the most contested issues in a divorce because they are so important. These issues are even more complicated for military families, due to frequent moves and uncertainty about future deployment. If one parent knows that he or she is going to be deployed, it is often a good idea to ask the other parent to sign a contract specifying where the child will live and the location of their permanent home.
Alimony and Spousal Support
The central issue when calculating alimony is getting an accurate calculation of the gross income for each spouse. For military personnel, this requires a thorough analysis of the service member’s Leave and Earnings Statement, to ensure that additional allowances and benefits are considered in addition to base pay when determining what constitutes an appropriate award.
Pension and Military Benefits
Service members perform an essential function, and receive special employment benefits to compensate them for their sacrifice. Some of these benefits include medical and pension benefits and life insurance. For military families getting a divorce, all of these benefits are subject to division.
Pursuant to the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act (USFSPA), in marriages lasting 10 years, former spouses are entitled to direct payment of a share of the service member’s pension benefits. However, military pensions are subject to division regardless of the length of time the couple was married. Although payment will not be direct and automatic, spouses who were married to a service member for fewer than 10 years may still be entitled to recover their share of military pension, thrift savings plan, and other retirement benefits.
Domestic violence is a serious issue. More so when it comes to military personnel. For accused perpetrators of domestic violence, military personnel could lose their rights to carry a weapon. It is important that military families consult with competent counsel on issues of domestic violence.
New Jersey Divorce Lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C. Understand the Complexities of a Military Divorce
New Jersey divorce lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C. have experience helping military families resolve all issues that arise during a divorce. We strive to reduce conflict during the divorce process, while achieving our clients’ goals. To schedule a consultation, call us today at 908-575-9777 or complete our online contact form.
We proudly serve military families throughout New Jersey, including families stationed in Fort Dix and McGuire Air Force Base, Somerset County, Morris County, Union County, and the communities of Basking Ridge, Bedminster, Bridgewater, Mendham, South Plainfield, and Woodbridge.