The rewards of military careers do not come without their difficulties, including physical challenges and separation from family. Another unfortunate additional drawback is the rate of divorce among those in the military.
Military Divorce Rates
The divorce rate for all military personnel is about 3%. Marine Corps and Air Force troops have a slightly higher overall rate, at 3.3%. Officers have a lower rate, at 1.7%, while enlisted troops have a 3.5% rate. Women in the military face an even higher divorce rate, with about 7% of those marriages ending.
While those statistics might seem low, U.S. Census data shows that out of all careers in the country, military personnel falls into the top seven careers most likely to see a divorce.
- Military, Rank Not Specified: According to Census data, this category is shown to have a 15% divorce rate. This is the seventh most likely career to end in divorce, according to the data.
- Military Tactical Operations and Air Weapons: Military Tactical Operations and Air Weapons: Census data shows people in this career have a 17% divorce rate, and the rate is particularly high among those aged 30 years old and younger. This is the number four career mostly likely to experience divorce.
- First-Line Enlisted Military Supervisors: This job comes in as the number one career most likely to end in divorce, with a 20% divorce rate. Again, the rate is highest among those who are 30 and under.
Complications of Military Divorce
When one or both spouses are serving in the military, a divorce is more complicated than it is among civilians.
Some of the unique issues in military divorces include:
- Allocation of GI bill educational benefits
- Complex rules about when non-military spouses are entitled to benefits, such as Tricare after the divorce
- Complexity surrounding garnishment of military pay
- Complications involved in active duty personnel who are deployed
- Delays in scheduling proceedings because of deployment
- Detailed requirements regarding the division of retired pay in the divorce
- Difficulty creating shared parental responsibility during deployment
- Division of Thrift Savings Plans (TSPs) in the divorce
- Election of Survivor Benefit Plans (SBPs) in the divorce
- Military family support requirements
Military divorce is also complicated because there are special federal laws that apply to military divorce that impact all aspects of the process, as well as state laws.
Strategic Planning for a Military Divorce
Since military divorce is so much more complicated than a civilian divorce, it is important to work with an attorney who has experience handling military divorce. While JAG corps attorneys can offer free advice, they are not divorce law experts, and they may not be licensed to practice law in the state where your case is being heard and thus may not fully understand Colorado law.
The very first thing you should do before you file for a military divorce in Colorado or after you have been served for a military divorce in Colorado is talk to an attorney who understands all of the laws and regulations and can offer you personal advice about your situation.
It is very important that you do not file for divorce first and then seek legal advice. Due to the nature of the laws surrounding military divorce, you may be eligible to file for divorce in more than one state. An attorney can help you assess which state has laws that are more favorable to the specific facts of your case and may result in a better outcome for you.
It is also important that you understand if you have the right to a stay, or a delay in the case. Active duty service members can request a stay of 90 days (which can be extended) under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA). This stay can give you time to gather evidence, work with your attorney, and prepare for the case. It also gives you the time necessary to focus on your current active role at work without having to deal with the divorce proceeding.
Another critical strategy is to talk with an attorney and discuss how long you have been married in relation to the laws governing the distribution of retirement benefits and health care benefits. If you are the non-military spouse, sticking it out in the marriage another year or two to meet a statutory cut off for the length of marriage could give you access to a greater range of benefits and a larger financial outcome in your case. Likewise, if you are the military member, divorcing before this date can save you money.
Military divorce is a complex field. It is crucial that you work with a law firm known for handling military divorce and getting the best possible outcome for military and non-military spouses. Burnham Law’s attorneys have years of experience handling Colorado military divorce and are ready to talk with you about your case. Call us today at 303-990-5308 to get the advice you need.