During a recent conversation, a financial benefits expert consulting with me on a Dane County divorce case informed me that his workload for military divorces has skyrocketed in the last few years. I have also noticed an increase in military divorces. Our anecdotal experience is supported by statistics readily available online. Military divorces have, in fact, increased by a full percentage-–2.6 to 3.6% of servicemembers—in 10 years. Female servicemembers experience divorce at a rate about three times that of males. Stress of deployments, mental and physical injuries, and cultural adaptation, when added to normal marital stress of children, money, and cohabitation, logically increase the divorce rate from non-military marriages.
For the divorcing spouse and his/her lawyer, special issues arise when a spouse has a military background. Depending on the years and type of service, rank, and history, several different benefits may be available. The means of valuing these benefits, and the servicemember’s and spouses respective entitlement to receive them, can be rather complex questions. In many instances, assistance from an expert in military benefits is needed to ensure that the benefit is understood and allocated properly. This is true for both assets such as military pensions and survivorship options, but also for various forms of income available for support, including disability and housing/family allowances. Additionally, when the couple has children, specific challenges resulting from military work requirements or deployments must be addressed. Long deployments present a challenge to establish and maintain a bond with children, and a plan must be made to re-establish that bond when deployment terminates. There are some rules in Wisconsin governing placement of children specific to military families, but they do no cover all circumstances. Your divorce lawyer can assist you to ensure the proper application of the law as well as other means to maintain a parent-child bond. In many cases, your lawyer can cooperate with your local JAG to achieve the best result for you.
I have worked with many military families to address these and other issues, and would be happy to consult with you. Please share your comments regarding your experiences in these matters.