The insurance giant USAA provides services to millions of military servicemembers and veterans, employing a team of certified financial planners in the process. One of them says that many communications he receives focus upon divorce-related questions from members of the military community and underscore the concerns of contacting parties with getting a fair shake in a divorce agreement.
J.J. Montanaro believes those concerns are well-placed and warranted, given “the nuances of military divorce” that readily distinguish it from considerations that are often prevalent in civilian decouplings.
Montanaro says that the many singular aspects of military divorce render it a good idea for divorcing sevicemembers and their spouses to proactively enlist the services of a proven military divorce attorney. Going it alone and trying to cut costs and streamline the process is not a sound strategy, he notes, and could result in “a lot of heartache, headache and wallet-ache later.”
Indeed, there can be many unique aspects of a military divorce to which closest attention must be paid. Montanaro mentions the Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act, legislation that we also alluded to in a blog post earlier this year, noting that a military pension is deemed marital property in Arkansas and elsewhere (please see our May 26 entry). We echoed Montanaro in noting how critically important it can be for a divorcing spouse to timely address this benefit and negotiate an equitable settlement. Failure to do so during the divorce process can render a potentially valuable source of lifelong income worthless.
Many other matters and — as Montanaro notes — “complex laws” relating to military divorce must be systematically identified and considered, as well. Many divorcing military spouses have questions regarding the Survivor Benefit Plan that ensures continuing income to a spouse if a servicemember dies. The plan’s benefits can be of tremendous importance, but the details must be duly attended to during — not following — the divorce process.
Other questions can arise concerning health care, tax consequences, ID cards and a host of other matters.
Montanaro says that the many questions that can arise in a military divorce make it an imperative for involved parties to secure “quality counsel” to fully promote their legal rights and interests.