By Kristin R.H. Kirkner, B.C.S.
I often find that the more prepared my clients are coming into the military divorce process, the more efficient and cost effective I can be for them throughout the divorce. A little bit of effort and pain in the beginning can pay dividends in the long run! If you are thinking about getting a divorce, and you are a service member, below are some steps you can take to put yourself in the best position possible to move forward and be proactive in the military divorce process:
1. Find a counselor or mental health professional: In all but the rarest of circumstances, I will ask and encourage my clients to get marital counseling and try to reconcile the marriage before proceeding, particularly if there are children involved. Even in cases where the marriage can’t be saved, divorce puts good people into one of the most difficult and stressful times imaginable. Divorce is devastating emotionally and financially and you need a support system in place from the beginning. Take advantage of the benefits available through TriCare or on base.
2. Get your financial affairs in order: One of the essential components of the divorce process is the division of assets and liabilities. I depend on my clients to tell me what they have, where it is located, and in whose name it is held. Get current statements for each account, pull a credit report and start by making a list of all assets and liabilities so we can figure out the most realistic outcome and develop goals and strategy for the dissolution. While you are at it, make a budget for after separation. The court looks at the needs and ability to pay of each spouse when determining spousal support, and that can’t happen without a realistic budget in place. Be sure to consider your retirement in this division of assets as Florida divides the marital portion of the military retirement equally between the parties and the marital portion is calculated from date of marriage to date of filing, which means that a long separation is not beneficial to the service member when it comes to division of their military retirement.
3. Encourage and assist your spouse to find employment if he or she is not working: The reality is that in most situations, both parties are going to have to work outside the home in order to support two households. If your spouse isn’t working, help him or her build a resume, seek employment and get the training needed to increase their earning capacity. The greater the spouse’s income, the lower their need for spousal support will be. Even though you will be divorced, their success is to your benefit because it will mean less financial support during and after the divorce.
4. Get involved in your children’s community: If you are not already doing this, get to know your children’s teachers, friends, doctors, tutors and coaches. You will need to develop relationships with these people separate and apart from your spouse after the divorce, and the time to start is now. You will need to decide how their daily lives are structured in each home after the divorce, and the only way to do that is to know the key players in their lives.
5. Talk to your spouse about the dissolution and expectations: At the end of the day, this is your family and you and your spouse are in the best position to make decisions for your finances and your children. The more agreements you and your spouse can reach, the less you will have to pay attorneys to do it for you in court. Don’t get into financial negotiations until after you have consulted with an attorney and have educated yourself about the likely outcomes in court, but you can, and should, discuss the logistics of living arrangements and parenting time with your spouse.
Still have questions regarding military divorce? If you would like to schedule an appointment with me to discuss your case, please fill out the form below and my office will be in touch with you for scheduling.
[contact-form to=’[email protected]’ subject=’Re: 5 tips for Military Divorce’][contact-field label=’Name’ type=’name’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Email’ type=’email’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Phone Number’ type=’text’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Comment’ type=’textarea’ required=’1’/][/contact-form]