Baltimore, Annapolis, Belair & Maryland Military Divorce Attorney
If you are a service member or military spouse, consult with an experienced military divorce attorney at James E. Crawford, Jr. & Associates before you file or respond to a divorce petition. Serving your country is a noble task, but the grind of the military lifestyle can negatively impact a marriage. However, military service can complicate your divorce. We’re here to help.
How Is Military Divorce Different From Civilian Divorce?
The Baltimore area has a high percentage of military families, due to its proximity to the U.S. Naval Academy, Fort Meade, Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Fort Detrick, and other military installations. While military service people are bound by military law, you cannot file for divorce in a military court. Instead, you must file for divorce in a state court that holds jurisdiction.
The grounds for military and civilian divorce are the same in Maryland. However, you must meet residency requirements — which vary depending on your circumstances. If you need help understanding whether you are eligible for a Maryland divorce, contact a military divorce attorney for guidance.
Additionally, there are special rules that apply to military divorces. Importantly, the Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act lets service members postpone divorce and other proceedings while they are on active duty and for up to 60 days afterward. This postponement gives the service member time to review the petition, hire a military divorce attorney, and respond appropriately. However, the active duty service member can waive this right, if he or she wants the divorce to proceed.
Finally, if your spouse is on active duty, you might have difficulty serving your divorce petition. Simply filing for divorce is not enough — you must properly deliver the divorce papers to your spouse. At James E. Crawford, Jr. & Associates, we have extensive experience handling military divorces. We will ensure that your petition is properly drafted, served, and your rights are fully protected. Contact us for more information.
Military Pensions, Retirement Pay, and Divorce
In a divorce, the spouses must divide their marital property and debts. Maryland is an equitable distribution state. In other words, your property isn’t simply divided 50/50. Instead, the court assesses a variety of factors when dividing property and decides what seems fair under your circumstances. However, additional rules apply to military pensions and retirement pay.
Military retirement pay and pensions typically are marital property. However, the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act (USFSPA) limits a state’s jurisdiction over pensions and other military benefits. Typically, you must file for divorce in the state where the service person resides. Otherwise, the court cannot divide his or her military pension during your divorce.
Once you file for divorce in the correct state, the USFSPA also dictates how the military pensions are distributed. A military spouse is eligible for a direct payment of his or her spouse’s military pension if:
- The service member has at least ten creditable military service years, and
- The military couple was married for at least ten creditable military service years.
Ex-spouses that qualify for direct payment will receive payments from the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS). If you do not meet the “10/10 rule,” you must collect pension payments from your ex-spouse. This is a more complex process. It therefore typically requires assistance from an experienced military divorce attorney.
Your military divorce attorney will also help you address each spouse’s right to military retirement payments and survivors’ benefits. These issues involve a complicated analysis. Without the guidance of a skilled lawyer, you might lose valuable benefits.
Child Custody and Visitation in a Military Divorce
Ideally, you and your spouse will negotiate a child custody and visitation agreement that clearly addresses deployment, relocation, and other military-related issues. If you and your spouse cannot agree on child custody and visitation, the judge will consider the best interests of the child. While the “best interests” analysis is complex in a civilian divorce, issues of deployment and relocation make child custody in a military divorce even more difficult. While Maryland’s child custody laws grant military parents some protections, make sure you consult with an experienced military divorce attorney before finalizing a child custody agreement. And, if your situation changes, you can consider petitioning the court for a modified child support order or temporary custody.
Additionally, Maryland laws limit the amount of child support deductions from a military service member’s pay and allowances. Since military pay structures can be complex, it’s always in your best interest to consult with an experienced military divorce attorney at James E. Crawford, Jr. & Associates. We can help you compute your child support payments under the Maryland Child Support Guidelines — and assess whether the court might deviate from the guidelines in your case.
Speak With a Baltimore Military Divorce Lawyer
If you need to speak with a military divorce attorney, contact James E. Crawford, Jr. & Associates. We understand and honor the sacrifices that military families make. Moreover, we will protect you and your family’s interests while guiding you through the complicated interplay.
Our team at James E. Crawford Jr. & Associates practice law and fighting for their clients throughout the entire State of Maryland, including Baltimore, Catonsville, Anne Arundel, Carroll, Charles, Frederick, Harford, Howard, Kent, Montgomery, Prince George’s, and Queen Anne’s counties. In our approach to representing our clients, we provide both positive results and a comprehensive education of the legal system throughout the process, guaranteeing each client a smoother and less intimidating experience during their case.
The attorneys at James E. Crawford, Jr. & Associates have represented clients in the state of Maryland since 1993. Mr. Crawford established the firm in the hopes of providing personalized services to clients going through trying family law issues. Since then, he has worked with his personally-trained attorneys at his firm to help hundreds of clients throughout the state maintain their reputation and protect their assets.
When we say that our expert team is knowledgeable and effective in all areas of domestic and family law, we truly mean. As only one of the many areas that the team at James E. Crawford Jr. & Associates handles with professionalism and success, there is Military Divorce – a specialized form of divorce proceedings that we can help to clarify for you and your spouse.
Military divorce is governed by both state and federal laws. For example, federal laws may affect where divorcing couples end up in court or how military pensions are divided, whereas state laws may affect how alimony and spousal support may be issued.
Active-duty service members are generally protected from divorce proceedings in most cases. Under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), U.S. servicemen and women cannot be sued or begin divorce proceedings while on active duty or for 60 days following active duty (at the discretion of the court). This is so military service members may devote their time and energy to defending the Nation.
Before a court can grant a divorce to military members or spouses, it must have “jurisdiction” or the authority to hear the case. For civilians, jurisdiction is generally the place where the person lives. However, for military personnel, jurisdiction may be the place where the person holds legal residence, even if the service member is stationed somewhere else.
Service of Process
Many states will allow a military member or their spouse to file for divorce in the state the military member is stationed. It would not matter if neither spouse is a legal resident of the state. Generally speaking, military members and their spouses have three choices when it comes to which state to file for divorce:
- State where the spouse filing resides.
- State where the military member is stationed.
- State where the military member claims legal residency.
Whichever state they file in the grounds for divorce, property distribution, child custody, and child support issues are governed by the laws of the state where the divorce petition is filed. Military members would be wise to consult their legal aid office on base for further information or contact a qualified divorce lawyer in the state they wish to file for divorce.
Military Pensions and Benefits
Like civilian retirement benefits, military pensions are subject to division between spouses in the event of divorce. Under the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act (USFSPA), state courts may treat military retirement pay as either sole or community property depending on the state. While the USFSPA does not provide a formula for dividing the amount of retired pay, the amount is generally determined and awarded under the specific state laws. Further, payment of the former spouse’s share of military retirement is paid directly by the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) to the former spouse if there were at least 10 years of marriage that overlapped with 10 years of military service (known as the ten-year rule).
Regardless of the length of the marriage, however, a court may still authorize direct payment to a military spouse who has been married for less than 10 years as an offset, except payment would come from the retiring spouse rather than from the DFAS.
In addition to pension benefits, spouses of former military personnel are also eligible for full medical, commissary and exchange privileges when:
- The couple was married for 20 years or more
- The service member has performed at least 20 years of creditable service toward retirement pay
- There was at least a 20-year overlap of marriage and military service
Spousal and Child Support
The military has special rules concerning spousal maintenance (alimony) and child support. These rules are designed to ensure a service member’s family support obligations beyond a divorce or separation.
A court may enforce spousal and child support obligations in a number of ways including by:
- Voluntary or Involuntary Allotment
A court may also require the providing spouse to maintain life insurance that would cover child or alimony support payments for a specific period.
Free Consultation with a Premiere Maryland Family Law Attorney
If you’re in need of a Family Law attorney in Maryland, you might not know where to begin. Let us help you.
If you are considering a divorce, it’s in your best interest to consult with a Baltimore divorce lawyer. At James E. Crawford Jr. & Associates, we have guided our clients through divorces and legal separations since 1992. We provide compassionate advice and aggressive legal representation, ensuring that our clients receive their fair share of child custody and marital property. If you are in need of a Baltimore, Maryland Family Law lawyer, contact James E. Crawford, Jr. & Associates at 443-709-9999 today.