Arizona is home to 7 military bases representing members of the Army and Air Force whose families are tested by frequent deployments, relocations, and long separations. As many service members can attest, the challenges of military life can weigh heavily on a marriage. If you or your spouse serve in the military and are facing divorce, it takes an experienced military divorce attorney to protect your interests.
Cohen Family Law regularly represents military families on a wide range of family law issues, including divorce. Although similar in many ways to a civilian divorce, a military divorce is subject to special rules. Founding attorney Mitchell E. Cohen is well-schooled in the applicable state and federal laws governing military divorces and is committed to serving those who serve the nation. Our legal team has an impeccable reputation for providing military families with informed representation and dependable service.
We help service members, spouses and families navigate the difficult family transitions unique to military life. When you become our client, we will take the time to listen to your concerns, explain all your rights and obligations, and guide you through the military divorce process. Above all, we will treat you with dignity and respect and offer you a supportive environment in which you can make the best decisions about your future.
Military Divorce in Arizona
One of the key issues in a military divorce is where to file the divorce petition. Generally, there are three options:
- The state in which the service member is stationed
- The state in which the service member claims legal residency
- The state in which the filing spouse resides
For Arizona courts to have jurisdiction of a military divorce, the service member or spouse must have resided in the state for at least 90 days prior to filing the divorce petition. If the divorce is filed in Arizona, state laws regarding spousal support, child custody, and child support apply. While the Arizona courts generally have jurisdiction over such matters, special military rules and requirements are also in play.
Military Divorce Laws
The first thing to know is that service members on active duty are protected against being held in default in a divorce proceeding by the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA). Under this federal law, a divorce proceeding may be postponed while a service member is on active duty and for up to 60 days thereafter. The SCRA is designed to protect servicemembers from being taken advantage of while serving the country. An active-duty service member can waive the right to postpone, however, and allow a military divorce to proceed.
Moreover, the military has special rules concerning child custody, child support, and spousal support, while questions over the division of certain marital assets (e.g. military benefits, pensions) are governed by federal law. At Cohen Family Law, we understand the complicated interplay of state and federal laws, rules and requirements governing military divorce and will work tirelessly to protect your interests.
Spousal Support, Child Support, and Child Custody in Military Divorce
As mentioned above, there are special military rules and requirements concerning spousal support, child custody and child support. Because military service typically involves frequent deployments, for military couples with young children complicated family dynamics weigh heavily on child custody determinations.
Often, a military spouse will not have regular visitation, offsetting the parenting plan while also increasing the non-military spouse’s share of the child care burden. In addition, while child support determinations are determined by state law, the servicemember’s total entitlements (e.g. base pay, allowances, special pay) are key factors.
Given these and other considerations, the best way to protect yourself and your children is to work with the military divorce attorneys at Cohen Family Law. Above all, our legal team will work to support the best interests of your children.
Military Pensions and Benefits
Like a civilian divorce, one of the key issues to resolve in a military divorce is dividing the marital property, which includes retirement pay. Because retirement pay is based on the duration of a military member’s service, the pension in a long-term military marriage may be the single largest asset subject to distribution.
Generally, military pensions are governed by the Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act; however, a portion of those benefits may also be subject to Arizona’s rules of property distribution. If the marriage has lasted at least 10 years, and this period overlapped with 10 years of military service, then the nonmember spouse’s share of the pension benefit is paid directly by the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS). The court may order a retiring servicemember to pay a spouse directly, however, if the length of the marriage was less than 10 years.
In addition, a servicemember’s former spouse may be eligible for full medical benefits (unless he or she is covered under an employer-sponsored plan) and other benefits under the following conditions:
- The marriage has lasted at least 20 years
- The servicemember served for at least 20 years, and
- There was a 20-year overlap of the marriage and military service.
If the former spouse subsequently remarries, then medical and all other benefits terminate. Given the complicated formula involved in determining the distribution of military benefits and pensions, it is imperative to work with an experienced military divorce lawyer.
Contact our Arizona Military Divorce Attorneys
At Cohen Family Law, we represent military families on a wide range of family law issues. We have a profound understanding of the challenges facing service members and their families and a well-earned reputation for providing military families with first-class service. Regardless of the issues facing your family, we will stand by you. Please contact our office today for a free evaluation of your case.