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Military families who divorce face unique challenges

by | Aug 2, 2021 | Divorce, Family Law |

Families with at least one parent serving in the military face many challenges. This includes the ultimate sacrifice of losing a parent in battle and moving the family from base to base or being deployed for long periods. These and other factors can strain the family, which may lead to filing for divorce.

Special issues

Active and retired military face specific and unique challenges and accommodations:

  • Where to file: The couple may be in a different country, state or town than where they are officially a resident. Moreover, spouses could be stationed or deployed in different places. To file in Colorado, at least one spouse must be a resident, have a matrimonial domicile here, or have a valid reason for the state’s courts to exercise jurisdiction.
  • When to file: A military spouse cannot file for divorce without spousal consent if the military personnel is deployed.
  • Custody: The above guidelines determine if custody is under Colorado jurisdiction. The parenting plan must also have accommodations when the parents are deployed or doing shorter training stints, which will likely expand upon the one required for active service personnel before deployment.
  • Dividing assets: Couples married ten or more years (or ten years of active duty) must equitably divide assets. A non-military spouse will retain protections under the Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act. This federal law ensures that spouses get portions of retirement pay (through direct payment), medical care, and access to exchange and commissary.
  • Disability benefits: These stay with the injured service personnel, but they count as income when determining custody and support.
  • 20/20/15 rule: This special rule ensures that the military spouse married for at least 20 years, 15 during active duty, gets TRICARE health benefits for one year.

Military divorce in Colorado

While the above exceptions are part of a military divorce, many other details regarding the division of assets, custody, support, and other issues are similar to civilian divorces. And like civilian divorces, spouses can use video conferencing to litigate or mediate the divorce when they are not in the same place. Not all family law attorneys handle military divorce, so spouses should first check with their potential lawyer before moving forward.

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