If you’re a member of a military family, you know that the military impacts all aspects of your life. Divorce if one spouse or both spouses are in the military can be more complicated, but the state of New Jersey also makes some special accommodations for military families.
Military families may file for divorce in New Jersey if:
- The service member is currently stationed in New Jersey;
- The service member’s spouse currently resides in New Jersey; or
- The service member claims New Jersey as his or her permanent residence.
Like anyone being called to court, active duty military members must be personally served with a summons and a copy of the divorce action for a New Jersey court to have jurisdiction. If the divorce is uncontested (both parties want a divorce and have come to an agreement over support, child custody and how to divide debts and assets), the active duty spouse may waive personal service to speed up the process.
Many courts will allow service members stationed away from New Jersey to appear via telephone or video conference if immediate legal action is required.
If appearing remotely is not an option, the Servicemembers’ Civil Relief Act (SCRA) allows a court to stay, or delay, legal proceedings until the service member is available. However, a spouse may still be able to get a court order for temporary child support while the stay is in place.
Child Custody and Support in a Military Family
Each state and each branch of the military has different rules governing the payment of child support and alimony. The court will set an amount based on the service member’s Leave and Earnings Statement and estimated cost of living expenses. In New Jersey, both child support and spousal support/alimony awards may not exceed 60% of a military member’s pay and allowances.
In an ideal world, divorcing spouses would agree upon and submit a child custody plan to the court. If the couple cannot agree to a plan, the judge will impose a plan that is in the best interests of the child or children.
New Jersey, like many other states, has a law that limits the court’s authority to make permanent child custody decisions during a parent’s military deployment. Courts must wait until at least 90 days after the end of a deployment to impose a permanent child custody order. The court can make a temporary custody decision while a parent is deployed and then later finalize it with or without modification.
- When it comes to child support and alimony, each state and each branch of the military has different rules and different ways of determining either.
- The court will set an amount based on the service member’s Leave and Earnings Statement and estimated cost of living expenses.
Military Pension and Healthcare Benefits After Divorce
The Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act (USFSPA) governs how to calculate and divide military retirement benefits in the event of a divorce. Military pensions are typically subject to division regardless of the length of the marriage.
Former military spouses may be eligible to continue their medical coverage under TRICARE depending on the length of the marriage and the number of years of active service.
- Retirement benefits are divided by the USFPA.
- A spouse receives a pension irrespective of the length of the marriage.