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Mistakes made during military divorces are common and costly

Being in the military is about much more than just collecting a paycheck. The amount of time and commitment required by service members can put a tremendous strain on personal relationships and marriages. This is often especially true in cases where one's military service requires frequent moves and long-term deployments.

In cases where a military or non-military spouse files for divorce, it's crucial to retain a divorce attorney who has successfully handled military divorces and understands the varied and specific laws and rules that apply.

In cases where an attorney is not familiar with military divorce rules and laws, it’s likely that costly mistakes related to pensions, medical coverage and other important benefits will occur. One of the ways military divorces differ from regular civilian divorces relates to where a lawsuit is filed.

Depending on rank, military service members are often forced to move frequently which can make it challenging to figure out the state in which one needs to file for divorce. In cases where a non-military spouse is seeking a percentage of a military pension, under the Uniformed Services Former Spouses' Protection Act, he or she must file for divorce in the state in which the service member is a legal resident.

Errors related to a service member’s military pension are also common in divorces filed by inexperienced attorneys. When deciding the percentage of a military pension to which a non-military spouse is entitled, it's important to understand the rules related to "marital share." According to this rule, a non-military spouse is entitled to a share of a military pension which is based upon the length of a marriage as compared to the length of a service member’s military service.

In our next post, we'll continue to discuss some of the important ways military divorces differ from civilian divorces and detail how ignorance of these differences can adversely impact a divorcee’s financial future.

Source: North Carolina Legal Assistance for Military Personnel, "Legal Assistance for Military Personnel," 2015

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