The astounding military leader, Alexander the Great, marched into Gordium in 333 BCE, encountered the much-ballyhooed Gordian Knot1, and sliced it apart with one swift swipe of his sword. While plenty of military men “tie the knot,” many also need a way to untie their own Gordian knots. Divorcing a military spouse is more complicated than you might think.
Kids, Coin, and Cushion
With a military divorce, you have three situations frustratingly tied together, waiting for a talented Virginia family law attorney (or the ghost of Alexander the Great) to loosen their grip:
- Kids — Any parent dealing with divorce has also to deal with custody, child support, parenting time (visitation) and the like; a military divorce is far knottier because your military wife may be deployed, leaving you in charge of Xander, Alexa, and lovely Lexi.
- Coin — Military pay is not generous (as every military family knows) but at least it is predictable income; very often the military life does not allow you (the spouse) to hold down a full-time job due to deployments, child-rearing, and frequent military relocations
- Cushion — Your military spouse’s pension, that cushion that could come to her as early as her mid-forties, is partly yours; your divorce attorney must work very hard to deliver your equitable portion
Kids: Custody as a Military Spouse
As the spouse of a military service member, you face a lot of pressure in divorce. Your wife may petition for sole custody of your children, but can she handle that if she gets deployed to Navy Support Facility Diego Garcia out in the middle of the Indian Ocean? Who will take care of the kids while she cavorts on the tiny atoll?
So, instead, perhaps you need your divorce attorney to push hard to get at least shared custody of your children. Virginia law does not favor either parent, and her prolonged and repeated military absences could make a distinctly unfavorable impression with the Circuit Court judge.
The disposition of your children also influences child support payments. If you are going to seek to be the sole custodian, your attorney will also seek a higher-than-usual child support schedule from the children’s military mother.
Every branch of the military requires its members to provide adequate child support. Your spouse cannot fall back on some of the popular dodges (underemployment, willful unemployment, working “off the books”). The Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) can be involved in diverting your military spouse’s pay to your bank account, adding to the complexity of the divorce.
Coin: Employment as a Military Spouse
Suppose your wife has been transferred six times in five years, during which time you two found a way to produce a few children. You probably did not find a way to be fully employed.
No employer wants to hear, during your job interview, “I may have to leave on short notice if my wife gets deployed to Harvey Point Defense Testing Facility.”
This leaves her military income as the primary means of family support. During divorce, not only does your divorce attorney have to sort out what share of her income should come to you, you also must resolve how to deal with the value of benefits:
- Base privileges (the so-called “20/20/20” rule)
- Survivor Benefits Plan
Cushion: Military Pension Division
Perhaps the knottiest knot of military divorce is your spouse’s pension. Working for only 20 years, after all, she can retire from military life and begin a new career. All along, you supported her, moved with her, provided intangible help with her military life. You deserve an equitable portion of her retirement income.
That military pension is contingent on two benchmarks:
- She had 10 years of service that
- Overlapped 10 years of marriage
Note that your marriage does not need to meet the 20-year rule. You can be married for as few as 10 years with her service time adding to 20 years, and still be entitled to a portion of her pension.
Wise Counsel: Call The Firm For Men
Alexander was not born great. His father, Phillip of Macedonia, realized he needed a good education. He arranged for perhaps the world’s best teacher, Aristotle2 (yes, that Aristotle) to tutor the boy. Aristotle counseled the lad on every subject under the sun, like history, geography, military tactics, and the law.
You can benefit from wise counsel, too, by engaging a reputable, knowledgeable Virginia family law firm. As the spouse of a military service member, you need an experienced, civilian attorney by your side. Though your wife may be able to use JAG to get general answers about divorce, she should not rely on a military attorney, and you cannot.
To slice through the Gordian knots of military divorce, contact The Firm For Men by calling our Virginia Beach office at 757-383-9184. We have vast experience with the many ways military life changes a Virginia divorce.