Military service members make many personal sacrifices in serving their country. Their family lives are among the areas that are, sometimes, the most challenging. The stress from their jobs, the sometimes distance and time away from their families lead to many such families splintering. It is no secret that military service members have high rates of divorce.
Military couples deal with many of the same issues as civilian couples going through a divorce. However, their issues become more magnified because of factors related to their jobs.
Child custody and domestic violence
Among the important issues that need addressing in military divorce include:
- Child custody and visitation: Like civilian divorces, detailed parenting agreements need to be in place. However, this can prove more challenging in a military divorce with the service member stationed or deployed far away from his or her children.
- Domestic violence: This subject also has a parallel with civilian divorces. However, the stress and tension brought on through a military position may be amplified, providing extreme cases of physical and emotional abuse.
- Military pensions: A military service member qualifies for a pension after having served at least 20 years. The pension gained during the marriage represents marital property and a spouse is allowed his or her portion.
Special rules also apply to military members and their spouses going through a divorce.
The 20/20/20 rule and 10/10 rule
First, there is the 20/20/20 rule that provides certain entitlements to the divorced spouses of military members. Under this rule, the divorced spouse must meet specific criteria – married for 20 years, military spouse completed 20 years of service, and the marriage and spouse’s service must coincide for 20 years — in order to continue to receive medical benefits and on-base shopping privileges for the rest of their lives. In addition, they qualify for certain pension benefits as noted above.
Then there is also the 10/10 rule. This one declares that if the marriage lasted 10 years and the military member served for 10 years, the ex-spouse receives his or her share of pension benefits directly from the Defense and Accounting Service (DFAS), which provides payments for the U.S. Department of Defense.
Understanding your challenges
Many complications exist in a military divorce, though, it does share issues with civilian divorce. Among the differences relate to pensions. But there is also the job-related stress you usually cannot find in the civilian world along with long bouts away from the family. Understanding the challenges and dealing with them is key to setting off in a new direction in your life.