How to Find the Best Military Divorce Attorneys in South Carolina
Written by: Megan Dell
Unfortunately, the divorce rate for United States military members and military spouses is higher than the national average. Divorce proceedings for service members and their spouses have specific challenges that cannot be overlooked, which is why it is important to hire an experienced military divorce attorney when you file for divorce. There are currently eight active US military bases in South Carolina.
Read on to learn how you can choose a good military divorce lawyer.
A Military Divorce Lawyer Should Be Knowledgeable About Specific Issues
Issues a military divorce attorney should be knowledgeable about include the following:
Because members of the military frequently move, either temporarily or permanently, determining the appropriate jurisdiction to file for divorce can be important.
2 Servicemembers Civil Relief Act
Additionally, active duty service members are entitled to protections provided by the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. Failing to adhere to the requirements of the S.C.R.A. can be detrimental to your case and result in court sanctions.
3 Military Retirement Benefits
The division of military retirement benefits requires consideration of overlap between South Carolina law and federal law. Military retirement benefits can consist of a pension and/or a Thrift Savings Plan, as well as a Survivor Benefit Plan (“SBP”). Often, the amount of military retired pay is affected by other benefits the servicemember may receive, such as disability benefits from Veterans Affairs, and some benefits are not treated as assets in the divorce.
When military retirement benefits are divisible in divorce, there are limitations on how they may be paid, such as the “20/20/20 rule,” which allows the spouse of the service member to receive direct payments from the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (“DFAS”) if the servicemember served for at least 20 years, the servicemember and spouse were married for at least 20 years, and at least 20 years of service and 20 years of marriage overlapped.
If you are the surviving spouse of a service member or retiree, then you have an insurable interest in their life, and you will need to ensure you are an eligible beneficiary for SBP coverage and can receive the SBP annuity. You will also want to be fully informed about whether you can maintain TRICARE health insurance coverage and, if so, for how long.
4 Spousal Support/Alimony and Child Support
Though some benefits are not treated as assets, they can be considered when determining spousal support/alimony and/or child support. It is important to understand how your obligations can be affected.
5 Child Custody and Visitation
When one parent continues to be active duty in the military, custody and visitation issues can be especially challenging to resolve. The service member will continue to have the right to maintain a relationship with their children, even during deployments, and specific details must be considered and decided upon.
Experience in Handling Military Divorces
Because military divorces can be so detailed, it is incredibly important you hire a lawyer with experience handling them. When choosing a military divorce lawyer, here are some things to consider:
- Has the lawyer handled cases involving military members before? How often? How many?
- Does the lawyer seem familiar with the different types of retirement benefits?
- Does the lawyer understand what is required for a former spouse to receive direct payments from DFAS?
- Can the lawyer explain how TRICARE benefits may change upon divorce?
The Best Military Divorce Lawyers Have Personal Experience with Quirks of Military Service
Finally, when looking for a military divorce lawyer, it is worth considering whether you could benefit from being advised by someone who has personal experience with, or knowledge of, military service and how it can affect the divorce process.
Both of the attorneys at Dell Family Law are the children of former servicemembers and the spouses of service members, which provides them a unique perspective when navigating a military divorce.
Overall, an experienced lawyer can help ensure that a military divorce is handled in a fair and efficient manner, and that the rights and interests of military personnel and their families are protected.