When a couple is getting divorced and one or both is in the military, unique aspects of Missouri and federal law impact the divorce. Understanding these unique laws and how they impact you are critical to protecting your rights and following the law. Members of the military like you who serve our country deserve the best legal representation in ensuring a divorce that protects your legal rights.
While military divorces may be unique, this does not mean they have to be difficult for you. With the assistance of an experienced Missouri divorce lawyer, any questions or concerns you have about military divorce will be effectively addressed.
The Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act
One of the first things that differ from a civilian divorce is the applicability of the Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act. This act allows the former spouse of a member of the military to have access to:
- health care benefits;
- payment from a portion of the former spouse's military retirement;
- access to commissary or exchange; and
- access to Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR).
The act sets forth very specific rules about when and how a former spouse is entitled to a portion of the servicemember's current or retirement military benefits. If a lawyer does not have experienced with the USFSPA, your rights may not be protected, whether you are the servicemember of the spouse of the servicemember.
The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act
The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), which used to be known as the Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act (SCCRA), expands the protection provided to people entering the military in a wide variety of areas. In the area of your Missouri divorce, it may affect the following.
- Setting Aside of or Vacation of Default Judgments A default judgment occurs when a person fails to answer a complaint for divorce. Civilians are typically stuck with a default judgment once it is entered, but the SCRA gives the judge authority to reopen the case.
- Stay of Divorce or Legal Proceeding When a servicemember is deployed and is unable to be present for the legal proceedings, those proceedings can be delayed, or "stayed," until you are able to return home to come to court. This protects all aspects of a divorce, including spousal support or child custody hearings.
This act helps to protect those who are unable to appear because they are fulfilling their duty to the military.
Dividing Up a Military Retirement Plan
Members of the U.S. Armed Forces may have substantial retirement plans, especially those that are making a full career out of military service. There are specific rules that apply to when and how a military retirement plan may be divided between the servicemember and his or her former spouse.
Military retirement is subject to what is commonly known as the "10/10" rule. The 10/10 rule holds that if you and your spouse were married for at least 10 years and the servicemember spouse was in the military for at least 10 years of creditable military service during the marriage, the non-military spouse is entitled to have a portion of the retirement benefits. This portion will be sent directly from the Defense Finance and Accounting Services.
Medical Benefits After a Military Divorce
Whether a non-military spouse is eligible for medical benefits after a divorce is subject to the 20/20/15 rule. It holds that the former spouse of a member of the military is eligible for medical benefits one year after the divorce or annulment if all of the following requirements are met:
- the marriage lasted at least 20 years,
- the servicemember spouse completed at least 20 years of creditable military service, and
- a minimum of 15 years of the marriage was during the military spouse's membership in a qualifying military service.
When these requirements are met, the non-military spouse can still receive medical benefits even after the marriage is ended.
Military in Our Area
Military members in Missouri deserve the best legal service and protections possible. With the high numbers of military families in the area, there should be an experienced military divorce attorney available to help servicemembers at our local bases.
Fort Leonard Wood Army Base
Fort Leonard Wood houses our nation's army servicemembers. It is home to the 6th, the 8th, the 70th, the 75th, and the 97th infantry divisions. It is also home of the Maneuver Support Center of Excellence. While originally intended to train infantry troops, the base has become an engineer training post and has expanded to a wide variety of training purposes.
The base covers more than 61,000 acres and is located in Pulaski County. Bordering the base are the towns of Waynesville and St. Robert, both with a population in the 5,000 to 6,000 range. The post is two miles south of Interstate 44. It is supported by the Waynesville R-VI School District, which supports all Fort Leonard Wood students.
Whiteman Air Force Base
Whiteman Air Force Base houses our nation's air force servicemembers and family. The base is located two miles south of Noster, Missouri, just off of U.S. Highway 50. The 509th Bomb Wing is part of the Air Force Global Strike Command. The bomb wing housed at the base along with its fleet of B-2 Spirit bombers serves as part of the Air Force's conventional and strategic combat force.
Also housed at the base are the Missouri Air National Guard's 131st Bomb Wing, the Air Force Reserve Command's 442nd Fighter Wing, the Missouri Army National Guard's 1st Battalion, 135th Aviation Regiment, and the U.S. Navy Reserve's Maritime Expeditionary Security Force.
Consult an Experienced Missouri Family Law Attorney
A military divorce comes with certain unique challenges and legal aspects that must be handled correctly in order to protect your legal rights during a divorce. Whether you are the servicemember spouse or non-servicemember spouse, Joshua Wilson is an experienced family law attorney who can help you develop the best plan possible for handling your divorce and post-divorce life.