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Dividing up present and future military retirement benefits in a Texas divorce

It is not only
retirement benefits that you are currently eligible for that can be awarded to your spouse
in a Texas
divorce. Future retirement benefits- ones that you are not even eligible for right
now- are also fair game. The amount of basic pay payable to you for your
pay grade and years of service is what a judge can award to your spouse,
on a percentage basis. Let’s consider an example so that you can
get a clearer idea of what is at stake in terms of your potential obligation.

If your spouse is awarded 50% of your future military retirement benefits
in your rank as a 15 year lieutenant then you would only get 50% of what
your pay would have been if you had retired as a 15 year lieutenant. Your
spouse would not be eligible to receive a full amount when you retired
later on and achieved a higher rank and higher pay grade.

What is your non-military spouse’s ability (if any) to receive survivor’s
benefits in a divorce?

A court in Texas can order that you maintain a Survivor Benefit Plan naming
your ex-spouse as the beneficiary. These plans are basically government-sponsored
annuities that provide your ex-spouse with money in the event that you
die and your military retirement benefits stop as a result of your death.
While there will be substitute payments, the amount of those payments
will not always be the same.

Can payments of military retirement benefits after a divorce be received
directly from the government?

Based on your particular circumstances, it may be possible for you to receive
benefits directly from the government. The specific times in which you
would be eligible to do so include:

  1. If your ex-spouse was married to you for at least ten years while you were
    a member of the military, and
  2. Your divorce decree states that your spouse’s award of military retirement
    benefits is in either a specific dollar amount or as a percentage of your
    total retirement benefits.

To learn about their eligibility, your ex-spouse would need to apply through
the Defense Finance and accounting Services and must attach a copy of
your Divorce Decree with their application.

Transferring/Relinquishing Parental Visitation while serving in the military

I think it goes without saying that going through a divorce is tough on
any family. This can be doubly as true for families that are servicing
in the military. If you are a military servicemember then the sacrifice
that you are making for all of us, your family included, is astronomical.
With that said, it can be remarkably difficult to go through a divorce
while facing the prospect of being deployed to a foreign country.

As a result of your being deployed it may become necessary for you to transfer
temporary custody and visitation rights to your child over to a family
member like a parent, uncle, aunt or sibling. You would need to speak
to this family member before your deployment to go over this scenario
and to develop a game plan as far as the logistics of how that would work
out. You would also need to speak to and hire an experienced
family law attorney to help you negotiate the terms of a settlement that allows for
a person other than yourself to be awarded temporary visitation with your
child while you are deployed overseas.

Talk to your child’s other parent about making your plan a reality
once you are deployed

Let’s walk through some steps of how you could accomplish this in
a relatively straightforward fashion. First of all, discussing this issue
with your child’s other parent is the first and possibly the most
important step in the process. If he or she is onboard with your plan
then there is little that stands in the way of making it a reality for
you and your family.

It would be necessary for your child’s other parent to be willing
to take on the primary responsibilities of raising your child and having
primary custody of him or her. In the event that the other parent is not willing, able
or competent to step into this role you would need to address that with
a judge. In the alternative, if there is an adult relative of your child
that you and the other parent can agree to naming as a temporary primary
managing conservator then that is another option that can be approached
by you all.

Going to court in order to start the legal process

If you and your child’s parent have decided upon a game plan for
how you want to handle your deployment, then you would need to file a
motion to change the custody regarding your child from you to your selected
family member. An order would need to be drafted that puts everything
into writing and contains both your and the other parent’s signatures.

Part of this order would be comprised of a parenting plan that notes the
changes in custody that are being requested. The other parent would likely
be given sole custody during the time of your deployment while the selected
relative of yours would be given visitation in place of what you would
have been awarded had you not been deployed. If you know how long your
deployment will last you can note this in your final orders. If not, you
can state that once your current deployment responsibilities end you will
resume your role as a conservator of your child.

What to do if the other parent is not able to care for your child

Unfortunately you may find yourself in a situation where you are being
deployed to another part of the world a result of your military service
but your child’s other parent is not fit to take on full time parenting
responsibilities as we laid out in the prior sections of this blog. This
can be a frustrating and intimidating situation due to the uncertainty
surrounding your child’s life while you are gone.

However, you can also negotiate with your child’s other parent on
a relative to step in and assume the role of primary caretaker that you
had been filling up to this point. The relative would need to intervene
into the case and state that he or she is willing to assume this role
for your child. Service of all parties of the initial paperwork being
filed is necessary in Texas.

How to ensure that your child will be financially care for during your
deployment

Just as with any family law case that involves a child there will need
to be provisions for child support built into a final order. If your child’s
other parent is not appointed as the primary conservator of your child
while you are gone then you would set up a manner by which that person
will be able to pay the daily expenses of raising your child.

For instance, you could pay temporary