San Diego is home to tens of thousands of military personnel, who get married, raise families, and on occasion get divorced like everyone else. While military servicemembers may encounter the same family law matters as everyone else, certain aspects of military life create challenges that require certain family law matters to be handled somewhat differently than purely civilian cases. A handful of laws have been created to address the unique issues military servicemembers face in the divorce process.
Extra Time to Respond to Legal Proceedings
Servicemembers may be deployed overseas or in the middle of an active duty assignment when a divorce petition or other legal document is filed. Normally, individuals have a short time frame, such as thirty days, to file a response or risk adverse action such as a default judgment entered against them. The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act allows a servicemember to delay responding to a legal proceeding until up to 60 days after returning from active duty. This includes responding to a summons or petition for divorce.
Civilian Spouse Entitled to Share of Military Pension
The Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act authorizes the state to divide the servicemember’s military pay in the property settlement and allows a civilian spouse to a “marital share” of the servicemember spouse’s military pension in some circumstances. The amount of the share depends on the benefits that accrued during the combined period of marriage and military service. A former spouse may also be designated as a beneficiary under the servicemember’s Survivor Benefit Plan.
In addition, former spouses are entitled to continue commissary, exchange, and health care benefits, including TRICARE, after divorce under the 20/20/20 rule, which applies to a marriage that lasted 20 years when the servicemember has 20 years or more of creditable service, and there is an overlap of at least 20 years between military service and the marriage. If the overlap is between 15 and 20 years, the former spouse may access a lower amount of benefits under the 20/20/15 rule.
Active duty and overseas deployment can impact child custody determinations and other critical family law matters as well. Military divorces in San Diego should be handled by qualified family law attorneys with experience in civilian and military divorce matters.