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Who governs property division in a military divorce?

When military spouses in Massachusetts consider filing for divorce, they may be unsure of how military divorce differs from civilian divorce. However, divorce proceedings remain governed by state law regardless of the fact that one or both spouses are members of the military. Property division guidelines about retirement pay and a former spouse’s entitlement to benefits are provided by federal law, and the division of marital assets is governed by state laws.

When service members separate, both spouses remain responsible for the provision of support to children and the other spouse. The different military services have policies that determine support amounts in cases in which the divorcing parties cannot reach mutual agreements. In the time leading up to a divorce, a spouse who is not a military member will retain his or her military ID card, along with its benefits. Spouses are categorized as 20/20/20 or 20/20/15 — determined by the length of their marriages, and the number of years with which the marriage overlapped the service period. Spouses who fall into one of these categories may retain their privileges and benefits, but others will lose associated benefits upon finalization of the divorce.

The same goes for military medical care. Those who do not fall into these two categories will not qualify for the military care plan after the date of the final divorce decree. However, the Department of Defense Continued Health Care Benefit Program allows former military spouses to enroll for continued medical coverage. The plan is renewable every quarter and may be retained by a former spouse for three years after the date of the divorce.

These are but a few issues on a long list of unanswered questions many military spouses in Massachusetts may have. The circumstances of every divorce are unique, and, for this reason, the assistance and guidance of an experienced attorney who focuses on military family law and property division may prove to be invaluable. A lawyer can also give guidance on issues related to child custody, parenting plans and visitation.

Source: militaryfamily.org, “Divorce”, Accessed on July 2, 2015

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