Understanding Military Divorce

August 12, 2016

Columbus, Ohio divorce lawyers

Ending a marriage to an active duty, reserve, National Guard, or retired service member raises tough questions about spousal support, child custody, child support, and access to housing and tax benefits. Also since divorce, dissolution, annulment, and legal separation cases are handled in state courts, free legal advisers available to military spouses through the various branches can generally not represent a husband or wife in negotiations, mediation, arbitration’s, and hearings. In fact, one online clearinghouse for military family law information plainly states, “For military divorce or legal separation situations that require representation in civil court or involve contested issues such as child custody, spousal/child support or division of assets like retirement pay, it is recommended that you consult with a civilian attorney who is knowledgeable of the divorce laws of your particular state and has extensive experience with military-related family law.” 

The Columbus, Ohio, divorce lawyers with Edward F. Whipps & Associates have learned from helping many civilian spouses and service members navigate the process that the following concerns are at the top of most people’s minds. You can learn more about each issue and ask additional questions by requesting a consultation online or by calling (614) 461-6006. 

To get divorced in Ohio, you must file in Ohio courts. 

As noted above, federal civil courts rarely handle family law matters. Any dispute regarding child custody, alimony, visitation for the noncustodial parent, and division of shared property will be determined via procedures overseen by the Ohio family court for the county in which the couple claims residence. 

Active duty members of the military can request delays in divorce proceedings but cannot stall a case forever. 

When a service member truly cannot respond to court filings or attend meetings and hearings related to a family law matter because of deployment or injury, the government can be compelled to name a lawyer or senior officer to represent the service member’s interests. Despite this provision, civilian spouses who file for divorce when their military husband or wife is out of state or overseas should expect delays. 

Children remain eligible for military dependent health care benefits until they reach independent adulthood. 

The service member who claims responsibility for the child’s health coverage must register the child with TRICARE following a divorce, dissolution, or legal separation. The child will continue receiving TRICARE coverage until he or she turns 21. The coverage remains in effect until the age of 23 when the child is a college student in good standing. 

Child support is not automatically awarded in a military divorce. 

All branches of the military require members to temporarily support former spouses and children who do not live with them. Making such arrangements permanent requires having a civilian court issue a divorce decree or other legally binding contract that obligates payment of alimony and/or child support. 

An annulment granted by an Ohio court does not bar claims for child support. 

A biological parent retains the duty to provide for his or her child regardless of the relationship with the other parent. A decree that no legal marriage ever existed does, however, prevent the person who requested the annulment from requesting spousal support. 

Military retirement pay and benefits are treated a little differently from private pensions and investments. 

Under the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act, a spouse has a right to ask a court to award a portion of a former husband or wife’s military pension. To succeed with such a claim, the civilian spouse must have been married to the service member for at least 10 years of the military member’s qualifying service. Ohio allows civilian ex-spouses to receive shares of a military pension without paying state taxes on the money.

 Civilian courts can order military commanders to take actions to enforce compliance with support and custody agreements. 

An ex-spouse or custodial parent must work through the courts and with an Ohio divorce attorney. Going directly to a base or unit commander to secure support payments or ensure visitation will not suffice. 

Divorce strips most civilian spouses of nonmonetary military benefits. 

Only husbands and wives who have been married to military spouses for a minimum of 15 years can retain any access to base housing, commissary privileges, and TRICARE coverage following a divorce, dissolution, or legal separation.






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