Going through a divorce is difficult enough for civilian couples. If you and/or your spouse is in the military, divorce can be even more complicated – particularly if child custody is an issue in the divorce. If you are contemplating a military divorce that involves minor children, you need to understand the unique issues you may face. Fort Worth fathers’ rights attorney Jon Boyd explains child custody in a military divorce.
Anytime the parents of a minor child get divorced, issues related to custody (referred to as “conservatorship” in Texas) of the child must be decided during the divorce. Typically, one parent is designated as the managing conservator. This parent is the parent with whom the child will live the majority of the time while the other parent spends parenting time with the child. In addition, that parent will typically need to pay child support that must be calculated as well during the divorce process.
Although the general concept and process of divorce is the same when a divorce involves at least one party who is in the military, there are some important differences and distinctions, such as:
Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) – can you file for divorce right now? To some extent that depends on the SCRA. The SCRA covers all active duty service members, reservists and the members of the National Guard while on active duty. Among other things, the SCRA prevents the spouse of a service member from filing for divorce if the spouse is on active duty.
Deployment – if one party is deployed (either before or during a divorce) it can make the divorce process slower — or even impossible — to get through. Along with the protection offered by the SCRA, it can also be difficult to negotiate a Parenting Plan and address the issues that must be included in that plan if one spouse is in the military. For example, many courts routinely order mediation when the parties in a divorce cannot reach an agreement regarding the details of the Parenting Plan. If one spouse is deployed, however, mediation is not a realistic option.
Relocation – All too often a non-military spouse must move out after the divorce if the couple lived in military housing. This can become an issue if the non-military spouse is expected to become the managing conservator for the minor child if she/he wants to move a significant distance away to be closer to family.
Child support – when one parent is active military it often means that he/she cannot spend as much time with the child as they would ordinarily spend. That, in turn, can mean that the amount of child support ordered is higher because the military parent is not receiving credit for parenting time spent with the child.
Spousal support – when one spouse is in the military it can make it difficult for the non-military spouse to maintain consistent employment. It can also be hard to pursue higher education when your spouse is subject to being transferred or deployed at a moment’s notice. Consequently, spousal support may be awarded to a non-military spouse – particularly if that spouse will have the primary responsibility for the couple’s minor child(ren) after the divorce.
Given the often-complex nature of military divorces it is critical that you discuss the specific facts and circumstances of your case with an experienced attorney to determine what issues may come up during your divorce.
If you are in the military, or you are the spouse of someone who is, and you are contemplating divorce, contact an experienced Fort Worth fathers’ rights attorney at Boyd Family Law to discuss your legal rights and options and to schedule your appointment today.