What Military Spouses Need to Know About a Military Divorce

by | Apr 26, 2024

A military divorce has some unique considerations that differ from a civilian divorce.  An example of which is that in a military divorce, federal rules govern eligibility for a Former Spouse to lifetime medical care, which state courts cannot dictate. Also, federal rules must be followed to qualify for the benefits earned by military service when it comes to the division of military pensions. For instance, if the service member hasn’t retired prior to their divorce being finalized, dividing their “future” defined benefit pension will “freeze” any future promotions and pay raises of the service member and impact the military spouse’s benefits.

Navigating these complexities can be overwhelming. Particularly when one of the spouses hasn’t been involved in managing the family finances during the marriage. It is important to seek guidance from professionals familiar with the federal requirements in a military divorce.  Understanding the nuances, including healthcare coverage and pension division, are essential ingredients when it comes to crafting the language of the divorce settlement agreement.

If you are unfamiliar with these matters, where do you begin? Consulting with a financial professional with a military background and additional divorce specific training is a solid start. They can help you to get familiar with your own family’s finances. Simply start by gathering and organizing documents like tax returns, bank statements, and pay stubs.

It’s important to note that each state has different divorce laws. These differing factors can affect waiting periods and separation requirements. Once jurisdiction is determined, couples can explore different divorce process options, such as:

  • Kitchen Table: In which you and your spouse attempt to resolve issues independently. (At the kitchen table)
  • Mediation: Involves using a Neutral Mediator to facilitate discussions between you and your spouse.
  • Litigation: Traditional courtroom proceedings where you and your attorney will go to the court to fight it out over the issues in your case and let a Judge (who doesn’t know you and your family nearly as well as you do, of course), decide the future for you.
  • Collaborative Divorce: This is a team approach that involves your own Collaboratively Trained attorneys and often will include neutral professional experts such as a financial professional, and a mental health specialist/facilitator to help guide you through the divorce process. Collaborative Divorce prioritizes privacy and your having control over the outcomes of your divorce.

It is also important for military spouses to be aware of other financial considerations, such as GI Bill benefits and the Survivor Benefit Program (SBP). These programs can significantly impact post-divorce financial stability.

As a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst® (CDFA®) with extensive military experience, including 20 years in the Air Force, I offer specialized expertise in navigating military divorces. Additionally, my training in Collaborative Divorce and preparing documents (such as QDRO’s and Like Orders) ensures comprehensive support throughout the process. With firsthand knowledge and a commitment to personalized assistance, I am dedicated to helping military couples navigate divorce with clarity and confidence.

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