It’s no secret that high-stress jobs can wreak havoc on a marriage. Those serving in the military have some of the most challenging careers. One recent analysis found that service members are more likely than any other professional to be divorced by age 30. Contributing factors in military divorces include demanding work, long stretches spent away, persistent danger and insufficient pay. Military deployments in particular are known to have a profound impact on marriages. Divorce rates steadily increase with every additional month of deployment.
If you or your spouse are serving in active duty and are contemplating divorce, it’s important to discuss your options with an experienced New Jersey military divorce attorney. Although you may be dealing with many of the same issues as any other separating couple, there are some unique areas of special concern about which you should be aware going into the process. These include:
- Jurisdictional questions.
- Child support and custody issues.
- Pensions and benefits concerns.
As experienced Monmouth County divorce attorneys, we work to ensure our client’s rights and best interests are upheld.
Jurisdiction is the right of authority a court has over a legal matter. Most states require some term of residency or other significant connection to establish jurisdiction for purposes of divorce. But special rules exist for active military members, who are often required to live on bases far from the place they consider home.
Servicemembers or spouses can file for divorce in New Jersey if:
- It is the state where the spouse resides.
- It is where the servicemember is stationed.
- It is where the servicemember claims legal residency (his/her home state or where he/she plans to live after discharge or retirement).
It is important to carefully consider the question of jurisdiction, especially if neither you nor your soon-to-be-ex plan to stay in New Jersey afterward. It’s been our experience in military divorces that the parties file in the county court where the base is located. Keep in mind though that if you and your ex move, New Jersey will retain jurisdiction over any ongoing issues, including child support, child custody, etc. That could make it tough to file post-judgment motions. This is another reason it’s important to work with an experienced military divorce attorney who can help you negotiate the best agreement the first time.
Child Support and Custody Issues
Military service can have a significant impact on child custody issues, but New Jersey does allow for flexibility of custody arrangements and parenting plans when one or more parents are deployed.
For example, N.J.S.A. 9:2-12.1 passed in 2013 prevents family courts from issuing final child custody decisions when a parent is deployed on active duty for more than 30 days OR is receiving extended service-related treatment. Courts need to wait until at least three months after a deployment ends before issuing a final order or change in any custody or parenting time case. Non-deployed parents cannot ask to change custody or the parenting time on the sole basis of the other parent’s deployment.
State family law also allows for temporary changes to these agreements to give the service member time to exercise their custody and parenting time rights while they’re on leave. Deployed parents may also delegate their parenting time to someone who has a close personal relationship with both the parent and child (i.e., a grandparent, aunt/uncle, etc.).
As for child support, those in the military have the same obligations as anyone else to provide financial support to their minor children. Any changes in a child support order need to be formally approved by a court.
Failure to comply with support, custody and visitation orders by military members can result in military sanctions. Military pay can be garnished for collection of such payments if there is a court order.
Pensions and Benefits Concerns
The Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act entitles former spouses married at least 10 years to someone whose active military service overlapped for 10 years to direct payment of a share of that person’s pension benefits. This is sometimes called the 10/10 rule. However, even those married less than 10 years may be entitled to a share of the pension, thrift savings plan and other retirement benefits, but it will have to be negotiated.
These are just a few of the issues that may arise in a New Jersey military divorce case. It’s important to discuss your case with a family law attorney who can help you navigate your unique position as a service member or former spouse of one.
If you have questions about military divorces in New Jersey, contact the Monmouth County divorce attorneys at Rozin-Golinder Law LLC by calling (732) 810-0034.