While many issues in a military divorce are the same – where will the kids live, how much support will be paid, what do we do with the assets and debts — military status involves many nuances that require an attorney highly experience in servicemember divorce to make sure costly mistakes are avoided.
For example, servicemembers receive, as a benefit of their employment, pensions. These pensions are divided at the time of the divorce. However, there are some technical issues that, if forgotten, will be disastrous for at least one of the spouses. For example, a former spouse is entitled to be designated the survivor of the pension – a right to receive her or his share of the pension, even if the servicemember dies. The correct documents must be prepared or any bargained-for survivor benefits may be lost.
Also, unless the parties were married for ten years while the servicemember served, DFAS will not pay the former spouse directly once the pension starts. It is important to have a process identified in the settlement agreement to capture the income once it starts.
Another issue concerns the calculation of support. Most states look at the incomes of the parties in determining both child support and alimony. Servicemembers, in addition to receiving a salary, also enjoy a housing allowance, a stipend for meals and potentially other benefits and compensation that must be included in the analysis. Failure to do so will result in an unfair award.