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Avoid These Common Mistakes in a Military Divorce

Saturday, 16 November 2013

military divorceIn Colorado Springs, it's not uncommon for divorce lawyers to specialize in military divorce. There are several areas in which an experienced attorney can help clients avoid costly errors. In reality, not every family law firm has experience in this area. One way to find out if your attorney is truly skilled in military divorce is to ask specific questions. For instance, your lawyer should be able to tell you about some of the most common mistakes people make in these situations. Here are some examples.

  • Failure to consider protections of the Service member's Relief Act – When divorcing a military service member, civilians cannot expect the same outcome as a traditional divorce. Under this Act, a service member can be protected from divorce proceedings that occur while they are overseas. This lets a service member complete a tour of duty before determining the best way to prosecute their case. However, it can radically change the divorce timeline for non-military spouses.
  • Uncertainty about survivor benefits in military retirement – Many service members fail to specify their spouse's entitlement to the survivor benefit annuity in their military retirement package. Former spouses may also be entitled to this annuity, so it is smart to consider this when crafting a divorce settlement.
  • Failure to consider the 10-year minimum time for military entitlements – Unlike traditional retirement plans, the former spouse of a military service member must have been married to that service member for at least 10 years of their military career. Proceeding with a divorce when the military spouse has not reached this milestone can be an unfortunate financial decision. In many cases, it is much better to wait until ten years of military service has elapsed during the marriage.
  • Failing to elect a former spouse as the survivor annuitant in military retirement – In a divorce case where the former spouse is entitled to military retirement benefits; it is very important for the military member to make this election within one year of the divorce date. If he or she fails to do so and then dies, the former spouse will have no recourse for receiving these benefits.
  • Inaccurate calculations of income – Service members' compensation can be quite complicated, often including such variables as COLA, BAH, Hazard Pay and other variations. In order to ensure spousal support and child support are calculated accurately and fairly, it is important to be accurate in a military income assessment.
  • Relying on Judge Advocate General (JAG) attorneys – While it might seem easier to get free advice from a JAG attorney, they do not specialize in family law. As a result they are probably not familiar with the domestic relations laws in your state. The correct course of action would be to ask for a family law referral from a JAG attorney.
  • Taking legal advice from fellow service members - It may be a good place to go for career advice, but other members of the Armed Services are not experts on family law. Depending on anecdotal advice from fellow service members can cause confusion and needless stress. Save yourself from making costly mistakes and hire an experienced family law attorney with military divorce experience.
  • Telling military about a service member's indiscretions – Divorce can be painful, and it can be tempting to take revenge when a partner has let you down. However, informing the military about their indiscretions is never a wise move. First of all, it is almost certain to make no difference I your divorce case, and secondly a non-military spouse can only be hurt by destroying the service member's military career.
  • Failure to address travel concerns in a custody case – In a military divorce, issues of traveling to see the children may be complicated. However, if these issues are not fully addressed in the custody agreement it becomes even worse. Timing and costs can become major obstacles to continued parenting time, particularly when one parent is stationed overseas. For this reason, a Colorado Springs family lawyer should include detailed travel arrangements for parents.
  • Health insurance concerns for military spouse – Unless the couple was married for 20 years of the military member's service, it is unlikely an ex-spouse would receive health benefits from the military after divorce. This will need to be addressed in terms of its financial impact on the divorce settlement.

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