Hartley Law Office, LLC

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Your spouse's military benefits don't all end with divorce

When you get a call from your commanding officer at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, you can't refuse it. Those orders could take you away from your family in the middle of the night, they could send you out of the state and could leave your spouse and children (if any) on their own for days, weeks or months, and sometimes longer. Living under those conditions could cause your marriage to break down.

Married couples often experience conflict and stress in their relationships. That stress often compounds for military service members and their families who make sacrifices that civilians may never understand. However, serving your country also comes with unique benefits that help to make the experience worthwhile. During the marriage, your spouse may take full advantage of those "perks."

Do those benefits just stop when you and your spouse divorce?

No. Congress passed the Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act in recognition of the sacrifices that a military spouse makes. Your spouse could receive the following benefits under the act post-divorce:

  • A portion of your military retirement under the 10/10 rule, if awarded as property in the divorce
  • Enforcement method for unpaid, court-ordered alimony and child support
  • Exchange, commissary and health care benefits (only under the 20/20/20 or 20/20/15 rules)

Whether your spouse receives access to the exchange, commissary and medical benefits depend on your length of service and the length of your marriage, along with how many years of your marriage correspond to your time in service. The same goes for the right to enforce a court order regarding your military retirement.

Military divorces require a certain body of knowledge

As you can see, even working out these issues requires knowledge of how the federal government and the military deal with the problem of divorce as it relates to service members. Other issues, such as custody, jurisdiction and your presence at court proceedings during deployment, may also arise. You have rights under Ohio law, the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act and other regulations. Understanding which laws, acts and regulations apply to your situation could cause lots of confusion.

You might attempt to consult with a JAG lawyer, but they more than likely will not represent you in family court. You might need the service of a civilian attorney to help you resolve your divorce issues. Be sure to find someone who understands the implications of your military service in the proceedings to assist in ensuring your rights remain protected and to explain any rights your soon-to-be former spouse may claim.

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