Divorce rates are consistently higher for military couples than for civilian couples, for one reason or another. Currently, the military divorce rate is about 3.7 percent, up from 2.6 percent 10 years ago. When we speak of military couples, we mean that either the husband or the wife is in the military, not necessarily both.
Military divorces involve a variety of difficult details that civilian divorces do not include. For this reason, it is important to work with Minnesota family law professionals who are experienced in military divorce. Complicated state and federal laws intersect in military divorces, making the process very difficult to navigate alone.
One issue that is unique to military divorces is that of the division of a military pension. Military pensions frequently value at more than $1 million, although they are not paid in lump sums. What else makes military pensions valuable is that there is no minimum wage for retirement.
The division of the military pension is guided by the Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act, which gives the state courts jurisdiction to divide the pension as marital property for settlement purposes. In some states, this may entitle the former spouse to half, but in others this is not so.
If the marriage lasted 10 years or more during the time of military service, the government may forward the awarded pension benefit to the ex-spouse. But, if the marriage did not coincide with the military service for at least 10 years, it is up to the former spouse to secure any benefits on his or her own. The military ex-spouse may voluntarily send the pension benefit, but if not the ex-spouse may need to go to court--in the state in which the military spouse resides.
Very simple mistakes can cause military benefits to be delayed or even denied after a divorce. For example, if one certain form is not filed within one year of divorce, the former spouse will not have access to the benefits after the military spouse dies. This can be remedied, but missed payments cannot be recouped.
Because of these and other risks, it is important for military couples to seek professional and experienced legal counsel for their divorce case.
Source: The Wall Street Journal, "Divorce: Splitting Up a Rich Military Pension," Ellen Schultz, March 9, 2012