Military & Army Divorce Solicitors
All divorces are stressful but in the case of military divorces, complex matters which do not typically arise in civilian divorces can make the situation extra challenging. Issues relating to military pensions, arrangements for children, service accommodation, and more can all put divorcing couples at risk of conflict.
At Crisp & Co, we provide specialist family law advice to individuals across London and the UK. As a dedicated family law firm, we have a deep, practical understanding of the pressures which commonly affect separating couples as well as specific expertise with cases of all type and complexity. Our specialist experience includes advising LGBTQIA couples and international couples (for example, where you are serving overseas).
For many couples, the possibility of having to fight their corner in court can be daunting. However, one of our major goals is to help your divorce or dissolution move as smoothly as possible. The majority of divorces can be negotiated out of court nowadays. And with our advice and assistance, you have the best possible chance of reaching a solution without major conflicts arising.
Our service includes providing advice and access to methods of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), such as family mediation and collaborative law. These methods have strong track records for helping clients arrange their divorces amicably and cooperatively.
Our military and army divorce solicitors’ expertise
Our team of highly skilled and approachable solicitors can provide advice on all aspects of armed forces divorce, including:
- Advice on opposite-sex divorce, same-sex divorce and civil partnership dissolution
- Advice for all current, reserve and former members of the armed forces – including Army, Royal Navy, and RAF – and non-serving partners
- Expert advice whether you are based in the UK or overseas
- Handling the formal application process on your behalf and providing advice on the ground for divorce and various reasons you must rely on to get your divorce approved
- Financial matters, including advice about military pensions
- Arrangements for children, including where they will live and how much time they will spend with their “non-resident” parent
- Military divorce child support and spousal maintenance
- Alternative Dispute Resolution, including family mediation and collaborative law
- Court Orders, including Child Arrangements Orders, Specific Issue Orders and Prohibited Steps Orders
How are military divorces different to civilian divorces?
The formal divorce process for military couples is the same as civilian divorce. For general information about the process, you can visit our Divorce page. However, military divorces differ in a number of way including:
- Military pensions – one of the biggest concerns for divorcing military couples usually relates to pensions as they tend to be more complicated than ordinary pensions
- Accommodation – if you live in Service Family Accommodation (SFA) you will likely need to move into Single Living Accommodation (SLA) after separation
- School fees – if your children go to boarding school their school fees will need to be taken into account during child maintenance discussions
What is the divorce rate for military couples?
Although the pressures of military life can be difficult for couples, there is no research to suggest that military divorce in the UK is higher than the general population.
How do I get a divorce in the military?
The legal process of getting a divorce in the military is the same as civilian divorce. The differences tend to arise in the associated matters – particularly military pensions.
The formal process for getting a divorce is:
- Submit a petition to court requesting the divorce. There is one ground for divorce – the irretrievable breakdown of the relationship. To show this you can rely on one or more of the following reasons:
- Unreasonable behaviour
- Separation for two years with your partner’s consent
- Separation for five years with no consent needed
- Once your divorce petition has been issued, a copy will be sent to your former partner who must respond within 8 days to either:
- Agree to the divorce
- Defend the divorce
- The most likely scenario is your partner will agree to the divorce at which point you can apply for a Decree Nici – this is a legal document which shows the court approves your divorce but it will not officially end your marriage
- If your former partner defends the divorce, you may have to go to court
- After the Decree Nici, you have to wait 43 days before you can apply for the Decree Absolute – the legal document which officially ends your marriage.
Alongside the divorce proceedings, you and your former partner should come to a decision about the division of your finances and arrangements for children. These matters can be dealt with after the divorce is finalised but for your sake, it is typically good to try and draw a line under the marriage once it is officially over.
What am I entitled to in a military divorce?
As with civilian divorce cases, money and assets in military divorces must be divided fairly. What you are entitled to in your own divorce will ultimately depend on what would be fair in your individual circumstances. Assets which should be considered include:
- Any property you own, including the family home if you own one
- Personal belongings, including cars and pets
To decide what is fair, you need to take into account factors like:
- The length of the marriage and your ages
- The income, earning capacity and financial resources of each spouse
- Your standard of living prior to divorce
- The contributions – financial or otherwise – made to the marriage by both spouses
- The physical or mental disability of either spouse
- Any benefit either spouse will lose as a result of the divorce
How long does a military divorce take?
Usually divorce takes around four to six months depending on various factors such as:
- Whether the petition is defended
- The complexity of the divorce, for example:
- The division of military pensions can be complicated
- If you or your partner live overseas this could make the process longer
The time it takes to finalise the divorce will ultimately hinge on the individual circumstances of your case. However, we understand you are probably eager to start moving on with your life. When you initially instruct us, we will talk you through potential time frames and how long your divorce may take. We will also provide regular updates throughout your case so you know exactly how it is progressing at all times.
How are military pensions dealt with during divorce?
Military pensions can be taken into account as a financial resource during divorce proceedings. There are many types of pension available for military personnel, including:
- Armed Forces Pension Scheme (AFPS) 15 – for personnel in service on or after 1 April 2015
- AFPS 05 – for personnel in service between 6 April 2005 and 1 April 2015
- AFPS 75 – for personnel in service between 1 April 1975 and 6 April 2005
- Full Time Reserve Forces Pension Scheme (FTRSPS) 97
- Reserve Forces Pension Scheme (RFPS) 05
- War disablement pensions
Military pensions are distinctive because you do not have to make contributions. The scheme itself is unfunded, meaning there is no “pension pot” from which to draw money. Your pension will be earned depending on factors like your length of service, rank and how old you were when you joined the forces. Some schemes also carry significant benefits not found in ordinary pensions.
When dividing a military pension on divorce you have three options:
- Pension Sharing
- Pension Offsetting
- Pension Attachment Order
Military Pension Sharing Order
Pension sharing involves a percentage of the value being transferred from the pension to the non-serving spouse. Typically, in military divorces, the length of the marriage will influence how the pension is split. For couples married at least 10 years, the split is usually equal, meaning the non-serving spouse entitlement may be at least 50%. Entitlements accrued prior to the marriage will usually not be taken into account. However, ultimately, it will be up to the courts to decide whether the pension split is fair.
Pension Sharing ultimately allows a divorcing couple to achieve a “clean break”. Because the non-serving partner’s proportion of the pension is transferred out of the existing scheme, both parties can move on with their lives with no ongoing financial obligations towards each other.
Military Pension Offsetting
This involves giving the non-serving partner other assets to “off-set” the value of the serving partner’s pension. If you want to keep the entirety of your pension and have a clean break from your partner, this is probably the best option for you. However, it is only possible if you own other assets which amount to the value of your pension. For many divorcing couples, the only other asset which could offset the pension is the family home.
Military Pension Attachment Order
This gives the non-serving partner an entitlement to a share of the serving spouse’s pension at the point they start drawing their benefits. For many, this option is not the most attractive because it does not allow for a clean break between the parties and the serving partner will retain full control over the pension.
Child Maintenance in military divorce
Another consideration for military families is child maintenance. Because many military families frequently move around, their children often attend boarding schools. Military personnel as usually entitled to reduced tuition fees, however, the question remains – how will school fees be paid upon divorce?
The divorcing couple must come to a decision about this question and other questions about the children’s upbringing. Usually, couples are able to make these decisions out of court using mediation or collaborative law sessions. However, in the event you cannot come to an agreement, we can provide advice about using the Child Maintenance Service or applying to court for a Child Maintenance Order.
Get advice from our specialist military divorce solicitors
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