The topic of divorce is never easy, but it can be especially complex when you or your partner are members of the military. In this article, we’ll cover the basics of military divorce and when you’re ready, contact our Albuquerque and Santa Fe divorce attorneys to take the first step in starting your new life on your own.
Military vs. Civilian Divorce
In many ways, there are no obvious or drastic differences between civilian and military divorces. The usual divorce and custody proceedings are the same in one as the other. Being a member of the armed services only starts to affect the divorce process when it comes to dividing military-specific pensions or benefits. If one individual in the marriage was military while the other was not, certain factors will affect whether the civilian ex-partner will continue to be given access to the base, medical benefits, etc.
The Unique Aspects of a Military Divorce
As similar as the divorce process is between civilian and military divorces, there are a few key differences and factors to consider when you or your partner are a service member. While these things don’t change the overall structure of the process, they will change how the applicable assets are split and how/if you’ll retain certain military privileges.
When You Can File for Divorce
When you or your partner are an active service member, you can expect to move around often as where you/they are stationed changes –something civilian divorces don’t have to worry about nearly as much. In New Mexico, you’re required to be stationed in the state for a minimum of six continuous months or the civilian spouse must live here for the same six-month time period before divorce can be filed with some exceptions. You can file the paperwork to get the process started while the service member is deployed, but having the paperwork properly served can be difficult if you don’t have a divorce lawyer’s help.
The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act
In the standard divorce process, if one partner is delaying the process for whatever reason, they often cannot receive any concessions to postpone or suspend the process until the timing is more convenient for them. However, the SCRA passed in 2003 allows active service members to have divorce proceedings suspended or postponed while they’re on deployment. Extra precautions must be taken when asking the Court to find the military spouse is in “default”, or when they have not responded to the divorce, and the process can therefore take longer. As frustrating as this delay may be to either side in a divorce, it’s typically a predictable matter that can be accounted for by the Albuquerque divorce lawyers at the Law Office of Dorene A. Kuffer.
Shared Child Custody & the SMCCA
With military divorces, the same child custody laws as civilians apply, so the initial divorce process will look the same as a standard divorce. However, the SMCCA, or “Service Member Child Custody Act,” bans the modification of the child custody plan while the applicable service member parent is on deployment. This also allows the military parent and their co-parent to create a temporary, written child custody agreement that takes effect while they’re deployed and ends upon their return.
Military Spouse Privileges
When you’re married to a service member, you’re granted access to the base where they’re stationed, the commissary, a portion of their pay as alimony, TRICARE medical benefits, and more. As always, the division of assets and matters of alimony will be detailed in the divorce paperwork, however there are laws that apply when it comes to divorcing a military member. Since this can be complicated, it is best for you to speak with an attorney about whether or not you will be entitled to continuing benefits.
When Should You Hire a Divorce Attorney?
In New Mexico (as much as any other state), trying to handle your own divorce paperwork, asset division, etc., can cost you more than your own time: if you don’t know what you’re doing, you could easily lose what you’re due in the divorce. Whether you’re a military service member or you’re a civilian spouse, hiring a divorce attorney can give you the support and knowledge you need to get through your divorce proceedings to a fair outcome.
If you’re part of a military marriage and you’ve decided to pursue divorce, contact the Law Office of Dorene A. Kuffer to connect with one of our Albuquerque divorce lawyers or Santa Fe divorce attorneys. Our team of tenured lawyers has the experience with the complexities of military divorce that you need, and we’ll walk you through each step of the process with our compassionate, thorough approach. Contact our law office today.