Many military veterans fight their toughest battles on the homefront. The strain of moving around or living separately for long periods of time, having wildly different life experiences from your partner, and the grind of service drive many couples apart.
Like many aspects of life when one or both partners is serving in the military, divorce is not as straightforward as it is for civilian couples. Negotiating a fair child custody agreement that recognizes one parent may be deployed now or in the future, and dividing up military retirement benefits are often the most challenging tasks. But even the first step — figuring out where and when to file your case — can be difficult.
Attorney Bob Matteucci is an experienced family law attorney who has helped numerous couples with ties to the military sever their links to one another. Whether you are stationed at Cannon, Holloman, Kirtland, White Sands, Los Alamos, or have some other link to New Mexico, he is ready to help guide you through the divorce process.
WHERE & WHEN TO FILE YOUR CASE
Where and when you choose to file for divorce if you or your spouse are in the military matters a lot. Divorce laws vary from state to state, and those laws will shape your case, even though there are also federal laws in place that dictate some of the details in military divorces.
Military families can typically choose to file for divorce in the:
- State where the service member is stationed;
- State where servicemember claims legal residency (Home of Record);
- State where the dependant or dual-military spouse and children reside; or
- State where dependent or dual-military spouse claims legal residency.
You do not have to get divorced in the state where you were married. In fact, it may be impossible for you to do that if you no longer have ties to that state.
Figuring out when to file for divorce can also be a challenge. The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) pauses civil legal cases that are filed while a servicemember is on active duty. This includes divorces. Even if someone on active duty wants to get divorced, the SCRA can prevent his or her case from moving forward.
Helping you decide where and when to file your case is something an experienced family law attorney like Bob Matteucci, who is familiar with military life and military divorce, can advise you on. He regularly helps military couples in the pre-divorce stage figure out if filing in New Mexico is a good idea based on their goals.
CHALLENGES OF CHILD CUSTODY IN MILITARY DIVORCE
All New Mexico child custody and child support decisions are based on the best interests of the child, but when possible, the courts like to make sure both parents have the opportunity to be involved in their child’s life. This can be difficult when one or both parents are serving in the military.
Deployment, combat, and active duty service can make it difficult for a parent who is a servicemember to spend time with their child, no matter how much time the court awards them. However, a skilled military divorce attorney can devise creative solutions to ensure members of the military are able to develop strong bonds with their children. For example, the custody agreement could state that visitation time missed due to deployment or active duty service could be made up when the servicemember returns.
It is also possible to draft custody orders that include provisions detailing the ways the military parent and his or her child can stay in touch when service obligations interfere with visitation — like extra video calls or digital messages.
Custody agreements should also be drafted with the understanding that the parent serving in the military will likely have to relocate from time to time. Planning ahead for this eventuality is much easier than asking the court to modify the existing custody agreement every time military life requires a move.
Attorney Bob Matteucci helps military families plan for the long-term best interest of their children. He can help couples negotiate a plan that meets their needs, and will be approved by the New Mexico family court system.
THE RIGHTS OF FORMER SPOUSES OF MILITARY MEMBERS
The life of a military spouse is not an easy one. Many sacrifices are made on the homefront to ensure those on the front line can do their job. The government provides certain benefits to make supporting a military spouse easier, and some of those benefits are available even after the marriage has ended.
The Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act (USFSPA) protects the former spouses of military members by:
- Allowing state courts to divide disposable military retirement pay between the servicemember and the former spouse at the time of divorce.
- Giving former spouses the ability to receive a portion of the military member’s retirement pay directly from the government.
- Providing special benefits to spousal or child abuse victims.
- Treating former spouses at military healthcare centers.
A former spouse may also be able to collect certain benefits after the servicemember dies. One of these is called the Survivor Benefit Plan, or SBP. The SBP is a valuable tool that allows a former spouse to continue receiving income from the military spouse. Also, a court can order a servicemember spouse to provide SBP coverage to a civilian spouse.
Attorney Bob Matteucci is familiar with the many benefits available to the former spouses of servicemembers. He works to get his clients the support they deserve.
CONTACT A NEW MEXICO MILITARY DIVORCE ATTORNEY TODAY
The above issues only scratch the surface of how complex a military divorce can be. If you are a member of the military, or you’re married to one, it is important to understand that your divorce will not be a typical divorce. Working with an experienced family law attorney like Bob Matteucci is necessary if you want your case to go smoothly. Contact Matteucci Family Law today to get things started.