A Pennsylvania military divorce creates several unique rights and issues in comparison to a traditional civilian divorce – especially in relation to procedure, property division and marital or child support payments. Specific state and federal laws apply to the process. Before you continue reading, however, bear in mind that in a simple, uncontested no-fault divorce wherein the husband and wife are in full agreement, either party may be in the military, and such a divorce is no more difficult than if neither party were in service.
Commencing a military divorce
To fulfill the military divorce filing requirements, the husband and/or wife must reside in the state or be posted, based or stationed in the state for the required length of time (six months in Pennsylvania) or have a military home of record in the state. The active duty spouse must be personally served with a summons and a copy of the divorce action in order for a Pennsylvania court to have jurisdiction over the party. However, in an uncontested case, the military spouse would not have to be served if he or she consents to the divorce in writing on the appropriate document(s) furnished by the lawyer.
Military personnel are often preoccupied with important service matters when they are active and on duty. In an effort to protect the rights of soldiers during service, the Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act postpones divorce proceedings for the entire time the active service member is on duty and for up to two months thereafter. However, the right to have the divorce proceedings postponed can be waived. Nevertheless, the law provides cushion room for those dealing with deployment duties.
Division of property in a military divorce
The Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act, which is inapplicable to civilian divorce proceedings, governs how military retirement benefits are calculated and divided upon divorce. This law is the governing body that authorizes a direct payment of a portion of a military retiree’s income to the former spouse. Of course, the parties are free to make their own agreement and that includes deciding to have no agreement at all.
Federal laws will not divide and distribute any of the military member’s retirement to the spouse unless they have been married 10 years or longer. The military spouse must have been active during this period.
In Pennsylvania, both child support and spousal support may not exceed 60 percent of a military member’s income and allowances. The standard Pennsylvania child support guidelines and schedules are used to determine the proper amount of child support to be paid.