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What You Need to Know About Military Divorce in New Jersey
Even in the best of situations and amicable of separations, a divorce is an overwhelming and taxing event. But seeking a divorce while also serving in the military can add special considerations and stress. In relationships, it can become necessary to take action and life doesn’t wait for us to exit the military or return to our hometown to file the proper paperwork for a divorce.
In New Jersey, the state takes special consideration for its military members who are seeking a divorce. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that the process is an easy one. It’s important you know how a military divorce in New Jersey can affect you.
Residency and Filing Requirements for a Servicemember to File for Divorce in New Jersey
The main issue when it comes to military divorce is residency. Even though a military member or military spouse may be stationed in another state (or even another country), if their main residence is still considered New Jersey, then they’re allowed to file in New Jersey.
Additionally, a military member or spouse stationed in New Jersey who isn’t considered a resident can still file for divorce in New Jersey. This is part of state law that hopes to reduce the confusion and problems of a military divorce.
Essentially, you can choose to file for a divorce in one of three states:
- The state where the military member is stationed;
- The state where the military spouse lives (if different from the military member they are married to); or
- The state where the military member claims legal residence.
Considerations If Neither of You Lives, Nor Wants to Live In NJ
Another issue that comes up quite a bit with military divorces is that even when the divorce is finalized, the parties don’t always stay in the state afterward. Either the service member will get new orders and move to another military base, or the spouse may return to his or her home state.
So, if you need to change a divorce order, such as adjusting custody, child support, or alimony, then you’ll either need to file this in the original state or else you’ll have to file a motion to change the jurisdiction to another state. Another issue is that certain aspects such as child support guidelines can vary depending on the state, so a change of jurisdiction can have a major impact on the case.
Custody and Child Support Issues
In New Jersey (and other states), there are different rules about child and spousal support depending on the branch of service. But one thing that is consistent is that a court order will be required to garnish the wages of a service member who’s delinquent in paying these fees. In this case, the military member’s Leave and Earnings Statement will be reviewed to determine the appropriate amount of money that they can afford to pay toward the spouse or child’s expenses.
Another big issue is child custody/visitation. In New Jersey, a change in custody cannot be requested because of military deployment. Also, visitation is affected by whether the military member has time to spend with the children due to deployment. If this parent is deployed and can’t spend their parenting time with the children, then he or she can choose a designee (such as a grandparent or sibling) who can spend time with the children in lieu of the service member.
Military Divorce in New Jersey: Child Support and Spousal Support
Military law already states that a servicemember who gets divorced is required to support their spouse and children. If a member of the military fails to pay alimony or child support, then the military authorities will take strict criminal action against that person.
However, this is usually a complex matter, so it may be easier to have such an issue adjudicated by the local family court. In New Jersey, the court will look at the spouse’s gross income to determine how much support they must pay. This can include overseas bonuses or hazard pay that a servicemember may receive in addition to their standard pay. (They can also consider other tangible forms of benefits such as food and military housing as it’s provided in addition to a salary.)
Military Divorce in NJ: Pensions and Military Retirement
One of the reasons that many people go into the military is because of the benefits, especially when it comes to pensions and retirement benefits. In a divorce, these are valuable assets that can be subject to division. Military pensions are actually marital property from the start of the marriage; the belief that it’s only an asset after 10 years is 100% false and a total myth.
Instead, this may be confused with the fact that the military member’s spouse can receive payments from Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) once they have been married for 10 years and their spouse has been a service member for 10 years. If they divorce before this point, they can still get a portion of the pension.
However, the payment will have to come directly from their ex and not from DFAS. Additionally, if a person is married to a military service person for 20 years that coincides with 20 years of that person’s service, they’re also eligible upon divorce to continue receiving full medical benefits.
All of this complicated maneuvering and requirements come with a complex set of paperwork with motions that have to be filed and forms to be completed. That’s where an attorney with a lot of experience in military divorces is important for your case.
Military Divorces Present Special Challenges
Military service unfortunately can complicate divorces to a great extent. It can bring in questions of jurisdiction as well as how the issues of child support and alimony should be handled. Because of this, it’s absolutely in your best interest to find a divorce attorney with experience not only in New Jersey family law.
Contact the Experienced Family Law Attorneys at Smedley Law Group in Woodbury, NJ Today
If you’re thinking about filing for divorce, you’ll also most likely be dealing with another matter like child custody, child support, or division of assets, so you’ll need to speak with a qualified attorney. The New Jersey family law attorneys at Smedley Law Group represent clients throughout the state, including West Deptford, Woodbury Heights, Runnemede, and Westville. We understand how challenging this time can be for you, which is why we will fight hard to protect your interests, and the interests of your loved ones, throughout the legal process. Call us at (856) 251-0800 or fill out our confidential contact form to schedule a consultation. We have an office conveniently located at 750 Cooper Street, Woodbury, NJ 08096.
The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.