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What are the unique challenges of military divorce?

Couples going through a military divorce may have many of the same challenges as civilians, but the procedures and enforcement of alimony support and custody are guided by different priorities and mandated by a mix of state and federal laws.

For example, the state where the divorce proceeding occurs will govern issues such as spousal and child support. But the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) includes a provision that allows a stay of proceedings if one spouse is deployed when divorce papers are served.

Where a stay of proceedings will adversely affect the care of the children (in the event that the parent with custody is deployed), the court can issue a temporary order that addresses child custody problems that arise.

What are the laws in Massachusetts for military divorce?

Massachusetts has a residency requirement for all divorces. Military members or their spouses can only file papers in the state where they are stationed at that time, where they have legal residence or where the military has residency. For military members and their families, you will serve divorce papers through the officer at the base who is the acting law enforcement official.

What assets can be divided in Massachusetts?

The Uniformed Services Former Spouse’s Protection Act, or USFSPA, is a federal statute that provides guidance on following state statutes for spousal and child support. However, military pension and retirement can be classified as property and not income, which will affect how the marital assets will be distributed in a divorce proceeding.

The calculation of direct retirement payments can be very complicated, depending on the amount of time the couple was married and how long one spouse was in the military during that time. The payments can be from 50% to 65%, depending on the divorce settlement.

Massachusetts is an equitable distribution state, which means that although property acquired by either spouse is theirs uniquely, a judge will view the estate in total and divide it equitably. The state does consider military retirement as marital property.

Having an experienced legal counsel who understands the unique circumstances of military divorce can help you to move smoothly through this difficult process.

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