Division of Military Retirement
A service member's military pension is often the most valuable asset in a divorce. Since it is an asset, Divorce courts can divide military retirements just like any other marital asset, so each spouse should know how the divorce courts will handle the division of military pensions, VA Disability, and issues concerning the Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP).
Military Family Support
Each military service has a regulation requiring its service members to support family members upon separation, in the absence of an agreement or court order. Once a court orders support, or the parties enter into a separation agreement, the military follows the order or agreement.
Former Spouse Military Benefits
Upon obtaining a divorce, the former spouse of a service member has a right to receive military benefits so long as he/she meets certain criteria. As the benefits are statutory entitlements, they are automatic and not subject to negotiation or deviation by a divorce court. In other words, the spouse will receive these benefits, even if they are not mentioned in the divorce decree or marital settlement agreement.
Military Divorce Frequently Asked Questions
Commonly asked questions about Military Divorce gathered from a variety of JAG and Military Sources.
Can I ask a JAG represent me during my divorce?
No. A JAG cannot represent you in civilian court, nor can he or she draw up legal documents for you. What the JAG can do is advise you. They can look over legal paperwork you may have and help you to understand what is going on. Additionally, they can notarize any documents you may need notarized.
Should I hire a civilian attorney?
This is your decision. However, you should consider hiring an attorney, even if you think your spouse and you can (and will) agree on all aspects of the settlement - if only to smooth your way in court. It is possible to have just one party represented by a lawyer. Generally, an attorney will represent only the husband or the wife in the divorce lawsuit, as the party's interests may conflict. For example, one may not believe he or she is responsible for debts of the marriage, or both may want custody of any children. In any event, an attorney will draw up paperwork to start the divorce and file it with the court. Copies will be sent to the unrepresented spouse. Both spouses should consider having a JAG review the documents. A JAG may highlight entitlements to military benefits that a civilian attorney may not have considered. Once reviewed, if the spouse agrees with the terms set out in the divorce papers, they can be signed and sent back to the other spouse's attorney. The civilian attorney may then file the paper work with the divorce court.
What if my spouse and I cannot agree on the terms of the divorce?
You should consider having a civilian attorney represent each of you. Remember, your spouse's attorney will have only his or her client's best interests at heart -- not yours. If you want someone to represent your interests, you will need an attorney who is working for you.
How much will a divorce cost me?
Prices start at $1,500 including filing fees.
Is there anything I can do to save money?
Yes. You and your spouse can agree to some or all the terms of the divorce - such as separating your property, expenses of alimony, child custody, etc. - and reduce your agreement to writing. Both of you should sign this agreement. This document is not a legal property settlement but is one less thing you will have to pay a lawyer to do. The court, however, has the power to independently decide matters dealing with child custody and support.
Do I have to give my spouse any money while we are separated?
Yes. The Military requires that you give your family reasonable support. There is no set amount of money to define "reasonable" but you should use your common sense. If you have a wife and two kids, twenty-five dollars a month is not reasonable. If you have questions, discuss the matter with your commander or first sergeant.
What about once we're divorced?
Alimony and Child Support amounts are set by the court. The Military will expect you to pay whatever the court orders you to pay. Since Overseas Divorces are based on the consent, child support will usually be set by agreement of the parties, based on "child support guidelines." This amount will be incorporated into the marriage settlement agreement and the divorce decree.
Can my wife and kids keep their I.D. cards?
Until your divorce is final, your wife and children are entitled to retain their ID cards. After the divorce, your spouse may no longer be entitled to an ID card (unless they are also a military member or otherwise entitled). Your children will remain military dependents as long as you remain in the military or until they reach an age where they no longer qualify as dependents.
What if my spouse won't give me a divorce?
The judge is the person who grants a divorce, not your spouse. However, if you are not a resident of Guam, you cannot get a divorce in Guam, unless your spouse consents. In all but a few jurisdictions, any party can obtain a divorce, even if the other party does not want it. Once you have filed the divorce petition at the courthouse, your attorney will serve a copy of the summons and petition on your spouse according to the state's procedural rules or according to the Hague Convention on International Service of Process if your spouse is stationed overseas. If no answer is filed, within a specified period after service, you will probably be granted a divorce by default. If your spouse contests the divorce action by filing an answer denying one or more of the allegations in your complaint, a hearing will be set during which the two of you can testify and the judge will decide what the truth is.
What is a Separation Agreement?
In the Military, legal officers often advice the parties to enter into a separation agreement before they have started any divorce proceedings. A separation agreement is an agreement between two spouses, which formalizes their decision to begin living apart. It typically is a preliminary step towards obtaining a divorce, but it is not required to have one (nor does a separation agreement automatically lead to divorce). It can cover all the aspects, which are addressed in divorce decrees, including child support, custody and visitation, property division, spousal support, and other issues discussed above. Often, a separation agreement will simply be incorporated into the divorce decree, simplifying the divorce process. Separation agreements can be prepared by a private attorney or by the two spouses themselves. Separation agreements are often available at Military Legal Assistance Offices.
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Hagatna, GU 96932
If you are unable to contact us, you can call Attorney Pole at 671-686-3254