3 unique issues that military divorce introduces

Military divorce involves many unique considerations, such as choosing a filing state, dividing special benefits and identifying fair custody arrangements.

Divorce is a notoriously complicated process, and this is especially true for military service members and their spouses. Military families in San Antonio generally face a number of distinct challenges during divorce, and poor handling of these issues can have lasting negative consequences. This makes it essential for both spouses in these families to understand and carefully consider the following issues before filing for military divorce.

1. Choice of filing jurisdiction

While most spouses must file for divorce in the state in which they currently are residents, service members and their spouses may have additional options. They generally may file in the military spouse's current state of residence or long-time home state. Spouses may also agree to file in another state, such as the one that they married in. The choice can be important because state divorce laws can vary significantly. For example, the following laws would affect spouses who get divorced here in Texas:

  • Community property laws - state law classifies most property acquired during marriage as community property, which must be divided equitably at the time of divorce.
  • Treatment of adultery - family law judges in Texas may take one spouse's infidelity into account when dividing property and awarding alimony.
  • Child custody presumptions - state law presumes that shared parenting, which is referred to as joint conservatorship, is in the best interests of children.

Before filing for military divorce, spouses may want to consult with an attorney about the relevant laws and their potential impacts on the final settlement.

2. Determining custody and visitation

Determining child custody and parenting time arrangements can be challenging for military families. Pending deployments or relocations must be weighed pragmatically when custody is awarded. However, in Texas and several other states, service-related absences cannot be used as a primary reason for denying a military parent custody or parenting time. Ideally, a divorce settlement should establish distinct custody and visitation arrangements that will apply when the military parent returns.

3. Dividing special benefits

The division of military benefits, such as pensions and Survivor's Benefit Plan shares, can also be a complicated issue for divorcing spouses. First, evaluating eligibility can be difficult, since various factors determine the amount of benefits that an ex-spouse may be entitled to. These variables include the duration of the marriage, the number of years of service and the number of years that the military spouse served while married.

During military divorce, spouses must also decide how any available assets and benefits will be awarded. Service members may benefit from an arrangement in which an ex-spouse receives a fixed cash amount that does not increase based on living costs. For the spouses of service members, meanwhile, an agreement that awards a percentage of the total pension may be the most advantageous option.

Importance of legal representation

All of these complex issues make qualified legal assistance essential for service members and spouses who are seeking divorces in Texas. An attorney may be able to help a spouse work toward the most advantageous arrangement available given his or her circumstances.