It is commonly assumed that a separate type of divorce is needed if one or both spouses are a member of the military. However, it is important to understand that a “military divorce” does not go through separate channels and is actually handled very similarly to a civilian divorce. Your “military divorce” will be processed through your local county court in Washington State, but there are unique considerations and important differences. Key issues will involve military service and benefits, and it is essential to have an experienced family law attorney who is well versed in the issues surrounding military and divorce.
- Many service members are not aware that they may file for and process a divorce while deployed or stationed overseas. If your divorce is uncontested, it may even be finalized while you are still overseas. Our family law attorneys are experienced in managing these type of cases and utilizing effective and efficient email and phone communication to meet your needs and ensure the process moves as smoothly as possible.
- On the flip side, if you are deployed overseas, you have important protections under the Service Members Civil Relief Act (SCRA), formerly known as the Soldiers and Sailors Relief Act. Military service members can often delay proceedings until they return or appoint a person to appear on their behalf. Stay and continuance may be granted when you are unable to be present to properly defend a court case due to military service, and this includes divorce as well as custody actions. This is essential in preventing default judgments and other orders from being entered against a military member who is serving our country overseas.
- If you are a military service member stationed in Washington State, you have the legal right to use Washington State jurisdiction for divorce and other family law matters, even if you consider another state “home”. Parties just need to have a residence in Washington in order to file for divorce in this state.
*Military Retirement Benefits/Pension:
- Washington is a community property state, and this is inclusive of military pensions. What this means is that under Washington State law, a dependent spouse of a military service member in most cases has a community property interest in the military spouse’s pension and may be entitled to receive up to one half of the service member’s current or future retirement pay. Whether a dependent spouse will collect a portion of the pension and what percentage it will be will depend on a number of factors, including length of military service at the time of divorce and length of marriage. It is essential to have a knowledgeable and experienced family law attorney, well-versed in these specific topic areas, advocating on your behalf.
- In addition to the service member’s earned or future military retirement, most other property acquired during the marriage is also presumed as community property and subject to division on an equal basis as determined by the court. This includes property acquired in or outside of Washington State, real estate, the dependent spouse’s pension, etc. As a no-fault dissolution state, Washington State law does not take into consideration the reasons for the divorce when determining property division. Once again, it is essential to have a knowledgeable and experienced family law attorney helping to protect your best interests.
- It can be very challenging to determine what a service member’s actual pay is, as a necessary calculation for determining child support. The court will generally consider all aspects of a service member’s income when determining child support. This may include BAH (basic allowance for housing), BAS (basic allowance for subsistence), base pay, combat pay, hazard pay, “in-kind” compensation, etc. All military members have a duty to support their children and their spouses, so their pay may be garnished to insure the payment of adequate support. Child support determination can be quite complex in these situations.
- Military service members may be involved with extended deployments or other duties that interrupt their capacity for parenting. Parenting Plans must be created that offer fair and creative solutions and sensible visitation schedules, accounting for the often unpredictable nature of military leave.
Dellino Law Group is prepared to effectively and efficiently address these and many other issues specific to military divorce. Our family law attorneys are experienced in managing divorces for military service members. We will review your unique, specific circumstances and help you to thoroughly understand your legal rights and options moving forward.
Whether you a military member or a civilian spouse, we are equipped to help you through this process. Contact us today to schedule a consultation to discuss your concerns, individual situation, and legal options.