The lifestyle of active military can be chaotic, especially if a service member is going through a divorce.
Some Key Things To Note About Military Divorces
- If the at-home spouse is serving the military spouse with divorce papers, the military spouse must respond with a formal answer. However, if there is a conflict of duty that prevents the active service member from responding, he or she can request a stay through the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) that extended the amount of time the person has to respond. Typically, the stay is 90 days, but can continue to be extended ”“ within reason ”“ as long as the military spouse’s duties conflict with the divorce proceedings.
- You don’t actually have to be married for 10 years or longer to receive a share of the military spouse’s pension ”“ the divorce court will consider all assets and divide the pension equitably. If the court divides the pension and you have not been married for 10 years, the military spouse will be responsible for monthly payments. If you have been married over 10 years, the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) will take care of the division and payments.
- Service members can sign up for a Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) upon retirement. This allows them to designate a beneficiary to continue receiving pension payments after the death of the service member. Sometimes, the court will include an SBP in the divorce settlement to benefit the non-military spouse.
- Service members also have the option during active service to pay into a Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) which acts as a sort of military 401(k). The TSP can be subject to equitable division in divorce, either split both ways or given as a tradeoff for some other asset.
Because of the unique complexities of military divorce, always discuss your financial situation with a divorce attorney.