Experienced Michigan Family Law Attorney Kathryn Wayne-Spindler recently completed continuing legal education at an ICLE Family Law Seminar. The seminar included a session on Military Divorce titled, “Top Tips for Handling Military Divorces” by Peter M. Kulas-Dominguez, Warner Norcross & Judd LLP; and COL John J. Wojcik of the Michigan National Guard.
A Military Divorce involves one or both spouses serving with the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, or National Guard. There are certain specific considerations for Military Divorces that may not be applicable to civilian splits. This blog is designed to introduce potential clients to some of the specialized concerns that may be encountered. The intricacies of military divorce are obviously far more complex than can be addressed here. For detailed information about your Military Divorce, contact the Milford, Michigan law office of Kathryn Wayne-Spindler & Associates at 248-676-1000.
Before filing for Military Divorce
To begin with, it’s important to know if the defendant is an active-duty servicemember (SM). This is a question for the plaintiff upon filing for divorce. This is crucial especially if the defendant does not respond to the petition for divorce. Typically, in a non-military divorce, a lack of response would result in a default judgment being filed. However, when the defendant is a SM, it must be investigated whether his/her active duty service precluded an ability to respond.
Military Divorce Tips for Resolving Process Serving Complications
Another unique factor of military divorce is difficulty of process service. The ICLE seminar team suggests the best method for service might be certified mail with a return receipt. With the frequency of sensitive deployment, sometimes the SM’s location is kept secret. If an address is not known for the SM, each branch of the armed forces has its own method for tracking down an address.
- Army – Soldier’s Record Data Center (SRDC)
- Navy – Navy World Wide Locator
- Marines – Personnel Management Support Branch (MMSB-17)
- Air Force – HQ AFPC/DP1ORM
Relocation After Military Divorce
Quite often, a SM’s family may follow him or her to a post and be dependent on him/her for residence and income. After divorce, the ex-spouse would need to find a different residence. The military does not assist the spouse in relocating but may provide compensation for temporary expenses related to the move. There are some specific circumstances where a commander may transfer a SM’s dependents off of a base if their presence creates disorder or a disciplinary disruptance.
Education Benefits to Ex-Spouse
GI Bill benefits may be transferred to family members including a spouse or children. After divorce, the service member reserves the right to retain or revoke those benefits for an ex-spouse.
Retirement Pay for an Ex-Spouse
Military Retirement Pay is treated as a marital asset to be split according to state rules about community property. Depending on the SM’s years of service and the length of the marriage, the retirement pay may be garnished and sent directly to the ex-spouse or the couple may negotiate a QDRO similar to that used by divorced civilian couples.
Healthcare Considerations in Military Divorce
According to the ICLE materials for the session, “Top Tips for Handling Military Divorces” by Peter M. Kulas-Dominguez, Warner Norcross & Judd LLP; and COL John J. Wojcik of the Michigan National Guard, “Dependency status and full military health care privileges are offered to a former spouse who:
- Was married for 20 years or more to a service member who
- Served at least 20 years in the armed forces and
- There is at least a 20 year overlap; and
- Does not remarry and
- Has no employer sponsored healthcare.
Parental Kidnapping Concerns in Military Divorce
Unfortunately, with the frequency of overseas posts for active-duty military, parental kidnapping is of special concern in military divorces. Department of Defense regulations provide a mechanism for SMs charged with parental kidnapping to be remanded to civilian authority to deal with child custody disputes. In order for a parental kidnapping situation to warrant military intervention, a court order establishing custody rights with another person must have been created before the abduction and the soldier must have been aware of the order and knowingly defied it.
Kathryn Wayne-Spindler has handled Military Divorces and is aware of the special considerations involved when one or both spouses are actively serving. For assistance with a Military Divorce, contact the Milford, Michigan law office of Kathryn Wayne-Spindler & Associates at 248-676-1000. Our experienced attorneys handle cases throughout Southeastern Michigan including Oakland, Wayne, Washtenaw, Genesee and Livingston counties. We help clients in Milford; Highland; Hartland; Wixom; White Lake; Commerce; Waterford; Walled Lake; Holly; Linden; Grand Blanc; South Lyon; Howell and many more local communities.
Written and Posted by Christine Donlon Long, Communications’ Specialist for Kathryn Wayne-Spindler & Associates