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Getting divorced is difficult under any circumstances. When one spouse serves in the military, a divorce involves additional complexities and challenges. Federal laws govern how military retirement pay and certain other benefits are divided when a military marriage ends.

Understanding the unique considerations in a Minnesota military divorce is critical. This will help both spouses know their rights and negotiate a fair settlement.

How Military Service Impacts Divorce in Minnesota

A military divorce in Minnesota generally follows the same process as a civilian divorce. Minnesota is an equitable distribution state, meaning marital property is divided fairly between spouses. This includes military pensions and certain other military benefits accrued during the marriage.

Federal law, specifically the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act (USFSPA), permits state courts to treat disposable military retired pay as marital property. The USFSPA prevents state courts from dividing certain other benefits like disability pay.

Other federal laws, like the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), may impact military divorce by delaying proceedings when a service member cannot participate due to deployment or other military duties.

Dividing Military Retired Pay in Minnesota

One major consideration in military divorce cases is dividing military retired pay. This income is viewed as marital property in Minnesota and is, therefore, subject to equitable distribution between the spouses.

The Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act (USFSPA) allows state courts to divide military retired pay as marital property in a divorce. The USFSPA makes military pensions subject to property division in the same way a civilian pension would be.

In Minnesota, courts determine how much of the service member’s retired pay the former spouse is entitled to based on the length of the marriage and their spouse’s military service. The former spouse may be entitled to a portion of the monthly retired pay.

To be eligible, the former spouse must have been married to the servicemember for at least 10 years during a period when they completed at least 10 years of creditable military service. The court will determine the percentage the former spouse should receive based on the years of overlap between the marriage and their ex’s military career.

This percentage is then written into the divorce decree or a court order called a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO), which notifies the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) how much the former spouse is entitled to receive.

Impact on Medical Benefits

During a military marriage, civilian spouses often receive medical and dental benefits through TRICARE plans.

Following a divorce, a former spouse may retain coverage temporarily or permanently depending on the situation:

  • At least 20 years of marriage overlapping 20 years of creditable service – Former spouse may be entitled to full TRICARE benefits even after remarriage.
  • At least 20 years of marriage and 20 years of overlapping service, but less than 20 years of overlap – Former spouse can receive transitional TRICARE coverage for 12 months after the divorce.
  • Less than 20 years of marriage or 20 years of service – Former spouse eligible for up to 36 months of transitional medical benefits under the Continued Health Care Benefit Program (CHCBP). The former spouse must pay premiums.

How Child Support and Alimony Are Determined

Child support calculations under Minnesota law account for the military spouse’s income. Judges can also issue orders for the service member to maintain dependent benefits for children, such as health insurance.

Whether alimony will be awarded, and how much, depends on factors like:

  • Length of the marriage
  • Income of both spouses
  • Child custody arrangements
  • Whether a spouse puts their education or career on hold

VA disability pay cannot be divided as marital property or garnished for alimony or child support. However, it may be considered as income when determining alimony or child support amounts.

Loss of Benefits After Divorce

During a marriage, civilian spouses of military members are entitled to important benefits like healthcare coverage through TRICARE, shopping privileges at commissaries and exchanges, and more. However, divorced spouses lose access to certain benefits once the divorce is finalized.

Under the USFSPA, some former spouses may qualify for transitional privileges and partial benefits. This includes:

  • One year of transitional military medical coverage through TRICARE if they meet the 20/20/20 or 20/20/15 rules. This requires 20 years of marriage, 20 years of creditable service, and at least a 15-year overlap between the two.
  • Limited exchange and commissary access if they meet the above requirements.
  • Indefinite commissary access if they were married to the service member for at least 20 years, during which the service member performed at least 20 years of creditable military service.

If a former spouse does not meet those thresholds, they are typically no longer eligible for these privileges once the divorce is final. However, some benefits, like CHAMPVA, can continue if the former spouse does not remarry.

Impact of Remarriage on Benefits

Remarrying triggers the loss of certain privileges and benefits for former military spouses in Minnesota. This includes commissary access and medical coverage through TRICARE or CHAMPVA. Housing entitlements also cease if the former spouse remarries.

However, remarriage usually does not impact a spouse’s right to receive court-ordered monthly retirement payments. Unless otherwise specified in the divorce decree, military pension division continues regardless of the financial or marital status of either party.

For this reason, divorcing spouses must consider the long-term impacts of remarrying when negotiating military retired pay division. Having a divorce attorney in Minnesota represent your interests can help ensure your rights are protected.

Unique Factors to Consider

Military divorces in Minnesota differ from civilian divorces in several ways. Some additional factors to keep in mind include:

  • Jurisdiction rules under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) govern where a service member can file for divorce.
  • Difficulty obtaining financial disclosure from a spouse who is deployed or frequently moves.
  • Coordinating with the judge advocate general (JAG) for advice on legal services.
  • Special provisions regarding military life insurance (SGLI) and other benefits.
  • Dividing Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) retirement accounts for active duty military.

Navigating these complexities takes a military divorce lawyer. Strong legal counsel from a law firm familiar with military family law can help you avoid missteps and protect your rights during a military divorce in Minnesota.

Let Our Attorneys Help With Your Minnesota Military Divorce

Going through a divorce while serving our country or being married to a service member involves unique hurdles. The military divorce lawyers at Martine Law provide strong yet compassionate legal guidance. We have an in-depth understanding of the complex divorce laws and procedures surrounding military families.

To schedule a consultation with a Minnesota family law attorney at Martine Law, contact us online. We have offices located throughout the Twin Cities metro to serve you.