Military Family Law Issues

Jason Kohlmeyer of Kohlmeyer Hagen is a veteran  having served on  reserve duty in the United States Army and the Minnesota Army National Guard. As former soldiers we understand the language, mentality and duty that goes along with military service.

Military custody and financial matters are complex and many family lawyers are, to be blunt, unable to understand what E-5, MOS, TDY, PCS, PEBD, ETS, Separate Rats, etc. are. Your Minnesota Divorce lawyer needs to understand the issues. When you are looking for a Minnesota Family Law Attorney be sure to ask the experience they have with military pensions and pay issues.

Military Pension

The military pension is usually the most valuable financial possession a service member has. While federal law controls how it is actually divided there are many different way in which to divide military retirement benefits.  There is not a “one form fits all” as it relates to military pensions, you can draft the document so it favors the servicemember or the servicemember’s ex-spouse.  An experienced Military Divorce Lawyer can tweak the document to be a little more favorable to the servicemember or a little more favorable to the spouse.

As a Divorce Attorney, I find it surprising how few Minnesota attorneys understand the complexity of a military divorce, which is why you, the individual seeking a divorce need to be very careful about your selection of divorce lawyer.  A few common myths involving military pensions are:

  • That federal law prohibits a non-military spouse to any of the servicemembers’s pension (FALSE).
  • That if you were married less than 10 years the non-military spouse gets no pension (FALSE).
  • That the monthly pension amount must be calculated PRIOR to the divorce (FALSE).
  • That a Military Pension has a cash value even if the servicemember exits the military prior to qualifying for and collecting their pension (FALSE).
  • That DFAS will send monthly payments to the non-military spouse. (POSSIBLY).

Servicemember’s Civil Relief Act

The Servicemember’s Civil Relief Act or “SCRA” is a set of federal laws designed to help both servicemembers and their families during time of military service. Some of the protections are

  • Protection from collection proceedings while serving
  • Stay of Proceedings in state court
  • Emergency leave to return to the U.S. to deal with Court
  • Rental protections

Some of the other protection involves debt collection and other legal proceedings, but the SCRA is not a blanket protection for anyone in uniform.  You will still need to deal with the legal action, but if you are deployed you do get protections.

Which State To File For Divorce?

It sounds like a simple matter doesn’t it?  It actually can be one of the more confusing and contested issues because child support and custody as well as the issue of spousal maintenance and division of marital property ALL hinges on which state the case is filed in.  Many states allow deployed servicemembers to file in their “home” state, that is the state they claim residence in, while other states don’t care what state you reside.

Another good primer on military divorce is from and can be read here.