Military divorces are different from civilian divorces. In a military divorce, service members can be entitled to additional protections, and timetables can vary. The following are five things to know about military divorces.
1. Service Members Have Protections in Divorce Cases that Civilians Do Not Have
When a service member gets served with divorce papers, that service member may have additional protections that civilians do not have. For example, under the federal Service Members Civil Relief Act, a service member can have a divorce hearing postponed until they can be involved. Many service members are deployed and cannot take part in divorce proceedings. Those service members have protections that can allow them to suspend the divorce proceedings until they become available.
2. State and Federal Laws Can Apply
In most South Carolina divorces, only South Carolina law will apply to the case. In other words, for most people, if you get divorced in South Carolina, your case will be governed by South Carolina state law. However, military divorces can involve state and federal law. For example, the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act (USFSPA) provides certain types of benefits to former spouses. In addition, that law gives states the ability to divide certain types of military pay and benefits between the service member and a spouse.
The federal Service Members Civil Relief Act, mentioned above, can also be relevant in military divorces. In sum, federal laws can affect military divorces but rarely impact civilian divorces.
3. Courts Can Decide Military Divorces If a Service Member is On Active Duty There
Under South Carolina law, South Carolina courts are allowed to hear divorce cases if a service member is on active duty in South Carolina. This is true even if the service member does not plan to live permanently in South Carolina. Many other states have similar laws.
4. Calculating Income for Support Can Be Complicated
Whether a spouse is seeking alimony in a divorce or the couple has minor children from the marriage, calculating a service member’s income can be complicated. In alimony cases, it is necessary to know the paying spouse’s income. It is also necessary to determine both spouses’ incomes in child support cases. Since South Carolina uses an income shares model to calculate child support, the court needs to determine the net income of both parents. Yet calculating the income of a person on active duty can be difficult due to the different forms of pay. For example, an active duty service member may receive multiple forms of compensation such as: base pay, hazard duty pay, in-kind compensation, and a housing allowance. All of those forms of compensation may need to be considered when calculating a net income.
5. Military Pensions Can Be Divided Like Other Marital Assets
Military pensions can be divided like other marital assets according to the USFSPA, but they cannot be cashed out like civilian retirement plans. In a military divorce, courts need to determine what the retired pay will be and distribute it according to equitable distribution rules.
Contact a South Carolina Divorce Attorney
The experienced South Carolina family lawyers at The Peck Law Firm can give you more information about military divorces and can assist you with your military divorce. Contact us online or call our office in Charleston at (843) 631-7117.
Recommendations For Additional Reading
How are Military Retirement Benefits Divided in a Charleston Divorce?
Child Custody Factors in a Military Divorce
What Happens to Military Retirement Pay in a South Carolina Divorce?