Military divorces in Louisiana are, in most facets, handled the same way as civilian divorces. However, there are several federal statutes the court must consider when handling a military divorce that will affect distribution of pension, spousal support, child support, and child relocation.
Venue for Filing
The first issue is the proper location to file your suit. You or your spouse must have been living or stationed in Louisiana for at least six months before you can file a suit in Louisiana. If your spouse is deployed overseas or otherwise not adequately able to respond to the divorce for other reasons related to his/her service, you will not be able to move forward with your case without your spouse’s consent under the Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act.
It is important to note that the court will never sign a default judgment (the method commonly used in an “uncontested divorce”) when your spouse is active in the military unless your spouse signs a waiver acknowledging the divorce and waiving service. If your spouse waives service, you may still obtain an uncontested divorce. See here for more information about uncontested divorces.
Child Support and Spousal Support
Child support and spousal support are determined under Louisiana guidelines, but federal law dictates that these awards may not exceed more than sixty percent of a servicemember’s pay and allowance. Federal regulations require U.S. military service members and veterans to provide child support to their custodial and non-custodial children.
If there is a written support agreement between the military service member and the child’s other parent or when there a state court order has been in place, a military service member is required by law to provide financial support under the terms of the agreement or legal court order. In the absence of a plan for financial child support, interim support measures are determined by the military until a court order is obtained.
Due to the transient nature of military service, child relocation is a big issue in military divorces. A Louisiana court will consider the same factors as civilian divorces when determining child relocation in a military divorce. Essentially, the court will determine whether it is in the child’s best interest to relocate. Even if you have no immediate plans for relocation, you can ask the court to include relocation provisions in your custody order in the event of a relocation.
Division of retirement benefits are governed by the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act. This legislation directs how a servicemember’s retirement benefits should be divided after divorce. In order for a former spouse to have any claim to a servicemember’s retirement, the former spouse must have been married to the servicemember for a minimum of 10 years while the military member served on active duty. The Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act provides may protections to a former spouse if the former spouse meets the requirements of the act.
As mentioned, general Louisiana law will apply to military divorce, there are some specific federal rules that will come into play in your divorce. It is important to hire an attorney experienced in military divorce to ensure you obtain the best outcome for your case.