How the Military Makes a Divorce More Difficult

Whether civilian or military, divorce is a difficult decision. But how does military divorce differ from civilian divorce? According to Higdon, Hardy & Zuflacht, L.L.P., “Military divorces are subject to greater scrutiny and regulation than their civilian counterparts,” since both the state and federal courts look at military divorce. Because of this, it is important to know your legal rights in cases of military divorce.

Supreme Court Ruling

Ameriforce explains how a recent Supreme Court ruling clarified property rights in military divorce settlements. The case involved John and Sandra Howell, an airforce couple, who divorced in 1991. In 1991, John was just one year away from retirement, and the divorce decree stated that Sandra would receive 50 percent of his military retirement pay.

John decided to give up $250 of his $1,500 retirement pay to receive that amount in tax-free disability benefits. In 2005, Sandra went to court, and an Arizona family court decided that Sandra should receive half of the $1,500 before the disability benefits. After appealing the decision, John took his case to the Arizona Supreme Court, which sided with Sandra on the basis that federal law “did not pre-empt the family court’s order.” However, the US Supreme Court overturned the Arizona Supreme Court decision this May.

Pros and Cons

What does this decision mean for the ex-spouses in military divorce? The Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) lauded the Supreme Court for “‘providing some much needed consistency’ in how the 1982 Uniformed Service Member’s Former Spouse Protection Act (USFSPA) is applied to divorce settlements nationwide.” Arizona was not the only state that required military retirees to pay for a former spouse’s lost retirement income based on a VA waiver.

Other organizations that support military spouses foresee ex-spouses receiving a smaller portion of military pensions since retirees are incentivized to waive military retirement pay for tax-free disability benefits. Lisa Colella, president and CEO of Healing Household 6, fears financial repercussions for ex-spouses, stating, “You will have all these specialty cases now where there is no way to determine them case by case…I think that is an unfair assessment for those families. Those families weren’t thought of when this ruling was made.’”

The Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) agrees with Colella that the ruling “clearly illustrates the unfairness” of reducing ex-spouse payout for VA disability compensation. Ising the Supreme Court ruling, MOAA is lobbying for a more fair solution for all parties involved.

While divorce is already difficult, this recent Supreme Court ruling makes it even more trying for the ex-spouses of military personnel. Although greater consistency is a positive, the overgeneralized ruling of the Supreme Court has serious consequences. As Mark Sullivan, a lawyer and retired Army Reserve JAG colonel, states, the ruling represents the “‘the death of indemnification,’ which is the ability of a court to increase a former spouse’s share of military retirement pay to make up for a loss in benefits if the service member elects to receive offsetting VA disability pay.”    

Types of Child Custody: Which is the Best for Your Child?

There are four child custody types from which spouses can choose:

Legal custody – courts in some states sometimes decide on awarding this type of custody to both parents. Legal custody gives the custodial parent(s) the right and responsibility to decide on matters concerning the child’s growth and basic needs, like education, religious upbringing, and health care. In joint legal custody or when the right to decide is given to both parents, both spouses are given the right to provide input about this issue and to have a say in the ultimate decision.

Physical custody – this type of custody gives the custodial parent the right to live with his or her child/ children, while the other parent is typically awarded visitation rights. In the event that the divorced parents live near one another and the child / children spend considerable amounts of time with both of them, then the court may allow joint physical custody instead.

Sole custody – though many courts are now veering away from entrusting a child to only one parent and increasing the role played by fathers in a child’s life after divorce, sole custody would still be the decision if one parent is judged to be unfit due to dependency on drugs or alcohol, neglect or abuse of the child, mental incapacity, or an unfit new partner.

Joint custody – this type of custody has various forms:

  • joint physical custody;
  • joint legal custody; and
  • joint legal and physical custody

Divorced couples who are awarded joint physical custody also usually enjoy joint legal custody, but not vice-versa. Though joint custody allows the parents continuous involvement in the child’s life, which is highly beneficial to the child, it also has some disadvantages. You should consult with a qualified legal professional to learn more about these issues.

Legal Assistance on International Divorce Needs

Today’s technology allows many people to go wherever they want to live or to get in touch with people in any part of the world. Whether for work or leisure, going to foreign lands has never been so easy as it is today and, wherever people go, relationships may be entered into, relationships that sometimes lead to marriage.

Many of these marriages, unfortunately, do not last forever. This can create particularly acute problems, as the different parties to the marriage may live in countries with radically different legal systems, making international divorce much more complicated than it would typically be. For this reason, international divorce lawyers can be of invaluable assistance to those in this situation.

These lawyers are well trained in laws governing international marriage, divorce, and divorce-related issues; they are also well-versed in cultural and international marriage agreements, such as the Hague Conventions on marriage and divorce. The Hague Convention on the Celebration and Recognition of the Validity of Marriages, which was enacted on May 1, 1991, requires all contracting (member) states to recognize as legal any marriage entered into in any contracting state.

Prior to this, though, was the Hague Convention on the Recognition of Divorces and Legal Separations that was convened in June of 1970 and which took effect on August 25, 1975, which obliges other contracting states to recognize divorces or legal separations obtained in another contracting state. Certain exceptions are stipulated, though, such as not having to recognize the divorce applied for if the spouses were citizens of a country where divorce was not legal. There are various other exceptions which your lawyer can help you understand.

Thus if you need assistance with any issue concerning international laws pertaining to divorce, remember that there are highly-qualified legal [rpfessionals always ready to give you the help you need.

Child Support, An Obligation of Every Parent Even After Divorce

Among the very important issues that couples need to resolve when filing for divorce is child support. Child support is no other than the monthly financial assistance which the obligor, or the non-custodial parent, should give to the obligee, the custodial parent, the care-giver or the state (in the absence of the two), for the support of his or her child / children.

This financial support is for the child’s basic needs, specifically, food, clothing, shelter, health care and education. Although payment is usually made only until the child reaches the age of 18 or emancipation, the court may require the obligor to also assist in his or her child’s future needs and activities, like advanced / college education, medical and/or dental needs, camp activities and vacation.

How much financial support the non-custodial parent ought to give for the child will depend on different factors, including the age and cost of the needs of the child, the parent’s capability to pay and, most importantly, the parent’s present income (monthly wage, overtime pay, commissions, benefits) and future opportunities. These factors have been specified by the Child Support Enforcement Act of 1984, a US law that promotes and requires support of biological children.

In the interest of the child, courts require that any changes (increase or decrease) in the amount of support will have to be approved by legally since the determination of the amount was made through legal proceedings; direct negotiations by the obligor with the oblige regarding this issue may result to contempt of court.

Application for increase or decrease in the amount of financial support can be due to job promotion, increase in salary, loss of job and others. Oftentimes, asking for legal help or hiring a lawyer who is well versed with issues regarding family law would be a wise move as he or she will be able to take away any burden connected with the child support case.