Six Most Important Things to Keep in Mind in a Military Divorce

Six Most Important Things to Keep in Mind in a Military Divorce

In this video, John discusses the Six Most Important Things to Keep in Mind in a Military Divorce. With over 100,000 service members and families in the state of Oklahoma from Tinker Air Force Base to Fort Sill, Vance Air Force Base, the Ammunition Plant, and all the other instillations’ Reservists and National Guard Members across our state. We are heavy in that population.

As a Field Grade Officer myself and Judge Advocate in the Oklahoma National Guard, John see these issues week in and week out across our state. It’s important to keep in mind the specific issues that relate to you, when considering division in military interests as well as military divorce in our state courts.

The first important consideration in military divorce, is jurisdiction. Divorce jurisdiction deals with the where of your military divorce. Under Oklahoma law and federal rules, there’s only three states that you should be subjected to divorce in as a service member. First, your state of domicile, or where you’ve shown an intent to permanently reside. Two, your state of residency or where you primarily live with your family. Three, the state in which you are stationed or where you’re currently serving military orders.

It is important to keep in mind, that under Oklahoma law, you must be in a state for six months before you may be subjected to divorce in that jurisdiction.

The second important consideration in a military divorce in Oklahoma is service of process or finding the individual in your case. If you are the non-service member spouse, you must serve the service member spouse or the other way around, before he or she will be required to answer. Oklahoma law has something called a default divorce where you file your petition, you serve the other party, and if they fail to respond, you may be granted a divorce be default.

However, there’s special protections in place under Oklahoma law and federal laws concerning service members being subjected to a default divorce. Recently in 2019, the Oklahoma Supreme Court decided Kohler v. Chambers, which gave great detail about the court’s considerations of proper service and jurisdiction as it relates to service members. Please feel free to read John’s Oklahoma Bar Journal Article that discusses in detail the issue of service member process and Oklahoma Family divorces. (Link Below)

The third important consideration in military divorce relates to child support and alimony, or the income of the service member. Most individuals that have employment have one, maybe two sources of income. However, service members can have multiple forms of income. They can have their base pay, upward adjustments for location pay, BAH or Basic Housing Allowance, BAS related to food allowance. Service members may be provided additional orders.

Additionally, retention bonuses exist for re-signing with the military. If you were married to a service member that a Reservist or Guardsman, then they will have their drill pay or their monthly income from the military, in addition to annual training orders, additional active duty operational support orders, and other forms of income. It is important as the non-service member spouse to identify these sources of income and ensure a proper calculation of income for child support and alimony. An important resource to assist with this is an LES, which documents the income for service members.

The fourth important consideration for military divorce is the issue of relocation. Most service members are transitory, they will be in one state for a period of time and move to another state. It’s important to consider the issue of relocation when drafting orders of custody and visitation, with protections to you as the service member or conversely protections for the non-service member spouse.

The fifth important consideration in a military divorce is child custody and visitation. As a service member you have a possibility of being deployed or being at another instillation for a short or long period of time. Considering these inevitable issues in drafting your custody agreement can allow you to protect your custody and visitation interest. Conversely, the non-service member spouse must consider these issues as well. You may lay out a catch-all or delegation in your visitation rights.

The sixth important consideration in a military divorce is the issue of division of military benefits including retirement. The Thrift Savings Plan is something unique to the military; however, it is similar to a 401K. The specific issues related to military retirement and the rules that apply to division and how to protect those interests. Additionally, veteran benefits exist that must be taken into account.

Eligibility to health care or TriCare specifically and when you are eligible as the non-service member spouse to continued coverage and for how long. Base access or a Dependent ID card for access. Oklahoma law does not trump military regulations on retirement.

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