The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan are privileged to work with all of our clients. We take pride in serving our community by providing the best family law representation in Southeast Texas. If our attorneys are not working on your case in our office, they are in court representing and advocating for other clients we represent. In a field where it can be extremely contentious in the middle of a case, we are primarily focused on doing what is best for our attorneys while maintaining the highest standards in ethics and representation.
Among our clients, we are especially proud of representing so many active-duty military members and veterans. When it comes to the difficulties associated with the family law case, I can think of no other group that is impacted as heavily as members of our military. All of our clients have lives outside of their family law case. However, if you are in the military or are a veteran and are going through a divorce, your needs can differ from those of a civilian in many significant ways.
Not only is your day job one that requires a great deal of concentration, skill, and commitment but the benefits and entitlements involved in a military case can differ from those of a typical civilian divorce. On top of that, we have to consider the needs of military spouses who may be living abroad or living closer to home here in Texas. When it comes to issues like child support, entitlements in the calculation of benefits having the right attorney, and being advised correctly on these issues can make a huge difference in a divorce case.
With that said, I would like to write today's blog post from the perspective of a military spouse. Though you may not be serving overseas or may have never served the country in this way, there are certain sacrifices that you made as a military spouse to shoulder a great deal of the responsibility of raising a family while your spouse served our country. As a result, the military makes special allocations for benefits and entitlements for military spouses and their children in the event of a divorce.
What benefits does a military spouse keep after a divorce?
One of the tradeoffs for taking employment for a job with many hazards, difficulties, and restrictions on pay is that military families rightly receive benefits to compensate them for shouldering these responsibilities and burdens. For starters, if you are married but consider yourself separated from your spouse, the military will consider you married. I know that some states honor legal separations, but the military does not in the state of Texas does not either, for that matter. For today's blog post and just for your information, moving forward, unless a judge signs the divorce papers closing out your case, then you are still considered to be married under the law and military regulations.
As the military spouse, this means that you will keep your identification card which identifies you as a military spouse, and he would be able to maintain your access to any military benefits just the same as any other spouse who is married to a member of the military. Keep in mind that a major part of your military benefits is military retirement pay and the survivor benefit plan. This is relevant if your spouse is active duty military and has completed over 20 years of military service; if these criteria are in place when your spouse's death, you will be eligible for a survivor benefit as provided in the military.
Both of these benefits are determined at the time of your divorce. In Texas, when the final decree of divorce is entered in signed by the judge, then these benefits will be fully calculated is determined. A pension plan is offered through the military, under which you and your spouse will be eligible as long as they have served at least 20 years. In that case, you all would receive a monthly payment based on your spouse's number of years of service, pay rate while in the military, and a specific multiplier that will be applied against these numbers. Usually, the percentage multiplier has been 2% in years past. The more years you would have worked, the higher percentage of your income you will be paid in a pension at the time of retirement.
From my experience, military retirement benefits are probably the most valuable asset you will have in your divorce if your spouse has served long enough to take advantage of the benefit. It is not uncommon for longer serving military members to have benefits in the millions of dollars. Furthermore, even if you and your spouse have not been married for that long, this benefit would be available to you just the same.
Keep in mind that these benefits in payments would not begin until your military spouse retires from the military and begins to receive their retirement. Depending on your spouse's anticipated date of departure or discharge from the military, this could mean that the benefit does not hit your bank account for some time. Another factor to keep in mind is that if you all have been married for at least 10 years, which overlaps with the over 20 years of your spouse's military service, then the military will pay you directly the benefits earned in the divorce. This is a crucial point because unless you were married for 10 years during the 20 years or more of service, your experts would be required to send you monthly payments.
What is a thrift savings plan?
In addition to a pension, the military has offered a thrift savings plan for quite some time. If you are looking for a comparison to make for civilians, then the thrift savings plan is similar to a 401K that may be offered through a civilian employer. The thrift savings plan can be invested by the military service member and receive matching funds from the military. This plan replaces some of the value of a traditional military pension that we have discussed earlier in this blog post.
Like the pension, the thrift savings plan can be divided into divorce. You could roll over your share into an individual retirement account or another qualifying retirement vehicle. This is not done during the divorce case itself, and I would recommend that you look into receiving advice from a financial planner who has experience handling cases for folks like yourself who are coming off of a military divorce.
What about health care? How would divorce in Texas impact your health insurance provided by the military?
As we all know, health care costs and health insurance are both important topics, especially during this pandemic. In a divorce, you are military-medical benefits cannot be divided up as an asset. The military has certain requirements under the law that would allow you as an ex-spouse to receive health insurance regardless of the court orders in your divorce. However, the government could also determine that you are not entitled to these benefits by the same token. No court order from a Texas family court judge could change that determination.
Specifically, you could be eligible for an extension of your military benefits for up to three years after the divorce, even if he does not qualify to maintain them permanently after the case ends. So long as you remain unmarried and are also awarded a portion of your spouse's military retirement, then you can remain on this temporary plan for as long as you would like.
Keep in mind that these benefits are not inexpensive, and you may obtain private health insurance on a cheaper basis. If you and your spouse were married for at least 20 years and those 20 years overlapped with an additional 20 years of military service, then your Tricare benefits are still going to be offered to you after the divorce, just like when you were married. This is an extremely inexpensive way for you to maintain health insurance and keep costs down.
Are educational benefits made available in a military divorce?
The GI bill that came about after the attacks of September 11th is also a benefit that is very valuable within the context of a divorce. The GI bill will pay for school tuition, housing, textbooks, and other incidental charges associated with attending college. These benefits for the context of a divorce can be significant. Typically, the military service member is eligible for the benefit, but the benefit can also be transferred to you as a military spouse or to your children.
If you or one of your children goes to college under the GI bill, this benefit will remain in place even if you and your spouse get divorced. The trick is that your spouse would need to agree to continue to extend the benefit to you or your children even after the divorce is final.
How is child support handled in a military divorce?
State of Texas law four child support would govern in the event of a divorce. That means you would need to be whereof state law for child support, how it is paid, and how it is calculated. If you are a military spouse and become the primary Conservatory of your children, you would have the right to receive child support from your Child's other parent. You must learn the ends outs of child support because this is another benefit made available to you under the law in Texas that is intended to help you pay for the essential costs of raising your children.
Your ex-spouse typically pays child support every month. Payments are typically not made directly from your X files to your bank account by cheque or direct deposit. Rather, child support payments typically go through the office of the attorney general of Texas and their child support division. The judge in your case is likely to sign a wage withholding order that mandates your spouse is an employer to hold back a certain sum of money each month for child support to be paid.
The money that is held back would proceed through the attorney general's office and eventually make its way into your bank account. That way, both you and your ex-spouse would have a way of keeping track of payments, and having an active log kept would verify payments that were made. This way, if there is any discrepancy or argument about whether or not child support was made, you all can simply go to the office of the attorney general's website, and they keep an accurate and up-to-date tally of how much child support has been paid in what is owed if anything.
Child support is calculated by determining the net mounted income of your ex-spouse and then multiplying that number by a percentage. That percentage increases five 5% boost are the number of children before the court in the divorce. Typically, the greatest percentage of your spouse's net monthly income that can go toward child support is 50%. Child support obligations in Texas run until your child turns 18, graduates from high school, or whenever the latter of those two events occurs. Your spouse would then need to file a motion to terminate child support upon the occurrence of one of these events.
However, if your child has a special need such as a mental or physical impairment, they may benefit from child support that extends beyond their high school years period; in that case, you should work with your spouse in negotiations or make the subject a topic in your trial so that a judge can rule on whether or not child support can be extended beyond your child's 18th birthday. This can be a huge issue in divorce and child custody cases for military families.
Final thoughts on military benefits within a Texas divorce
as I mentioned at the beginning of today's blog, post-military families sacrificed more than probably any other group of people who get divorced. We are these citizens so much in that if you are in the military or our military spouse, you should know that our law practice has the utmost respect for you and your family members. With that said, military members who get divorced must follow the laws of the city of Texas while being aware of the requirements in benefits inherent in military service in divorce.
You should plan on having an attorney to assist you in your divorce. Getting a divorce is difficult. Getting a divorce in the military is even more difficult. Getting a divorce as a military member or spouse without the assistance of an attorney is much more difficult. Having advice in context from an experienced attorney can make a world of difference in your case. This is especially true if you are serving overseas, at a military base or installation not in Texas, or our spouse not located near the state either. In this case, it helps to have an experienced lawyer on the ground who can provide you with updates and guidance throughout the case.
Finally, keep in mind that if you have children, you will want to position yourself well for the period after your divorce when you raise the children in separate households. Military spouses often express a sense of unease after a divorce, given the structure of the military and the benefits that military service provides may be largely gone after the marriage ends. If this sounds like a situation that you find yourself in, you should certainly look to interview multiple family law attorneys before your divorce to gain some level of insight on your case in your particular circumstances.
Questions about the material contained in today's blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
if you have any questions about the material contained in today's blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultation six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law and about how your particular circumstances interact with the law in Texas. Thank you for your interest in our blog, and we hope that you will join us again tomorrow as we continue to share more relevant and insightful information about the world of family law in the Lone Star State.