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Does military service affect divorce?

Pennsylvania divorce is governed by state law and county court procedures addressing spousal support, child support, custody, property division and other issues. Members of the military, however, may have to deal with federal laws that govern military benefits, access to commissaries and other privileges and court proceedings.

The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act may allow an active service member to seek a postponement of Pennsylvania court proceedings if it can be shown that their service would stop them from engaging in an upcoming deployment. Military courts will rule on whether their service will significantly impact the member's ability to advocate their position in a Pennsylvania court. If a civil court rules against a member of the military who was absent from court, the service member can also seek to reopen the case by filing an application within 90 days from leaving active duty.

The Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act addresses continuing specific benefits to former military spouses such as access to commissaries and other benefits. Eligibility for benefits relies on the extent of time that the spouses were married during military service, whether a spouse remarried and the time their marriage overlapped military service.

Other rules and procedures govern access to certain benefits to military spouses during divorce hearings. These include access to housing on military installations, health care, child and spousal support. Military authorities can also enforce a Pennsylvania court garnishment order for child support payments.

Spouses and children of service members may lose eligibility for military health care benefits under its TRICARE program. Children may have to remain as a dependent of a service member to remain eligible for benefits. If both spouses remain in the military, the couple has to determine who will sponsor their children's benefits.

A spouse considering divorce should speak to an attorney to determine their options and how the end of a marriage can impact their family and finances. Legal advice can help assure that their rights are protected.

Source: Military One Source, "Rights and benefits of divorced spouses in the military," Accessed July 31, 2016

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