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Family Law & Divorce
As a service member or spouse of a service member, or a person enjoying military retirement benefits, you have a lot to protect throughout your dissolution, commonly referred to as a divorce. The U.S. military creates significant challenges related to child custody and parenting time, fair and just settlement of retirement benefits, and ancillary benefits such as housing allowance. The fact that your military divorce will be processed through your local county court in Washington State means you need a divorce attorney who truly understands the unique circumstances and issues tied to a military divorce.
At Van Ackeren, P.S., in Tacoma, Wa, we believe every member of the military, including spouses and children, should receive aggressive and effective legal representation in divorce. I am military divorce attorney Cheryl Van Ackeren. Our firm focuses solely on military law and serves the needs of members of our U.S. armed forces, veterans, and their families. If you are considering filing for a dissolution in Washington State and you are a dependent or in the military, it makes sense to talk to a military divorce lawyer who understands the hot point issues that will arise during the process.
Members and family members in the U.S. armed forces face extremely unique circumstances and challenges in matters involving child custody, parenting rights, and child support.
Federal law permits, but does not require, a state court to award a dependent spouse up to one half of a service member’s current or future retired pay. Whether not a portion of a current or future military retirement will be awarded to dependent spouse and what percentage, if any, is one of the central questions of any military divorce. The answer to this question will depend upon a multitude of factors including: the length of the military member service at the time of divorce, the length of the marriage, and whether there is other property better suited for division.
Most property acquired during the marriage, whether or not acquired in Washington State, including service member’s earned or potential military retirement, dependent spouses pension, real estate and IRAs, and other private investments, are presumed to be community property and subject to division under Washington State law. Washington State is a no-fault dissolution state and the reasons for divorce are not considered in the property division. Instead, eligible property is divided on an equitable or equal basis as determined by the court. What constitutes an equal or fair division, however, varies greatly based on the facts of your case.
Service members’ families enjoy a range of unique benefits that can create some unusual legal circumstances during divorce. Family members are potentially entitled to have access to the military health care system and PX privileges. Whether benefits are available or not, however, is a matter of federal rather than state law and will be determined by the Department of Defense, not the court. Expertise on how military benefits are awarded is essential in ensuring the court properly determines support obligations and in properly planning divorce proceedings to ensure a maximization of all available assets.
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