Five Myths about Military Divorces

Kellam T. Parks
Managing Member of Parks Zeigler, PLLC
  1. Military Spouses will not receive custody

False.  While deployment creates unique child care issues, it does not, in itself, prevent the military spouse from being awarded primary physical custody of minor children.  In 2008 Virginia enacted the Virginia Military Parents Equal Protection Act which addresses many of the concerns of deploying parents and how to handle temporary custody changes.  http://goo.gl/s89h0

  1. The Military will make sure support is paid regularly.

False. The military defers to civilian courts for support matters, though each branch has its own administrative rules on how to handle such issues absent a court order (ranging from basically "hands off" to elaborate procedures).  The military can discipline a service member for failing to adequately provide for the family. The non-military party must have an order from a court to ensure there is recourse for non-payment of support. With such an order, one can request support be paid through military payroll deductions.

  1. You must be married at least 10 years to a military member to receive part of his or her retirement benefits. 

False.  If you are married to a military member, you are entitled to a portion of his or her pension regardless of how long you have been married.  The 10 year period is part of the military's "10/10/10" rule for direct payment by DFAS.  If you have been married for 10 years, the military spouse has been in service for 10 years, and there is 10 years of overlap, then DFAS will pay you directly your portion of the military spouse's benefits (with the appropriate qualifying court order). 

  1. The Ex-Military Spouse will always lose health coverage and commissary benefits upon divorce.

False.  The answer depends on the length of the marriage.  Similar to the 10/10/10 Rule - there is a 20/20/20 Rule for benefits.  If you have been married for 20 years, the military spouse has been in service for 20 years, and there is 20 years of overlap, you are entitled to continued full commissary and exchange privileges, TRICARE coverage, and medical care at any military treatment facility.  If there is 20 years of service with 15 years overlap, then you are entitled to one year of medical benefits post-divorce.  Beyond this one year and for spouses that do not meet the 15 year requirement, you may be entitled to pay for coverage under the Continued Health Care Benefit Program (CHCBP) if certain criteria are met.

  1. Getting a divorce is easier and cheaper in a foreign country and valid in the US

Yes and No. It is usually cheaper and quicker to obtain; however, there are numerous and significant potential issues with such divorces.  If neither party is domiciled in that country, the action would be invalid.  The divorce may be shielded from attack on various equity grounds, but you do not want to be in the position of defending your divorce's validity.  The old adage still applies - "If it seems too good to be true, it is."

Not only is my office located in Virginia Beach, but I was born and raised in Tidewater growing up side by side with military families. This, coupled with my law experience with Military Divorce matters, is an advantage in these types of cases.

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