Montgomery County is home to many active-duty military. Our nation’s servicemembers sacrifice a great deal, and one consequence of service can be a major strain on their family. Unfortunately, this strain can impact military families, which is why active-duty military has nearly double the national divorce rate. Just as military service has unique challenges that civilians do not face, military divorce involves some special considerations. If you are in a military marriage, you should be aware of issues specific to your situation.
Stressors on Military Families
Service and sacrifice often come with a price, and servicemembers and their families can suffer. Frequent moves for active duty, time apart when the servicemember is deployed, and stress as part of the job (including PTSD) affect the lives of military families. Unlike other careers, work/life balance is harder to achieve in the service, and families are expected to join in the burden placed on servicemembers’ shoulders. When added to common marital risk factors, the strain can be too much on family ties.
Deciding Where to File
Military spouses must file for divorce in state court. It is important to be aware of the powers of the court that will be hearing a divorce case. Questions about the division of assets as well as custody and spousal support vary from state to state. However, it is not always clear where a military family divorce can be filed. Place of residence is a factor in whether Maryland court can oversee a military divorce, so it is important to have some understanding of whether it is possible to file here. Unlike most families, military families move a great deal, and it is not uncommon to have been married in one state, own property in another state, and live in a third. Before starting a divorce process only to find that the court rejects the case based on residency, confer with a knowledgeable attorney about this issue.
There are several financial issues that are unique to military service. For example, the right to share in a military pension is governed by the length of the marriage, the length of service, and the place where the divorce is filed. In addition, the accumulation of benefits and employment-related assets can be confusing, but a good place to start is the Leave and Earnings Statement, which is the military equivalent to a paystub.
The Benefits of a Private Settlement
The Maryland family law court has some limitations in what it can do about certain assets that belong to a service member and that a spouse may try to claim. It is important for spouses to look at the whole picture when deciding what works best for them in terms of their family situation. A large payout may be preferable to a share in a pension that isn’t available for quite some time. The state court has an obligation to follow specific formulas for awarding a spouse their military benefits, but these can be given up, traded, or otherwise modified in a private settlement between the parties.
If you are a member of a military family, and you are considering a divorce, be certain to work with an experienced family law attorney who can review your options with you and make sure you work towards fair terms.