Whether we like it or not, separation and divorce are a part of modern life, as one in three marriages now end in divorce.
Military families are not immune to relationship breakdown. Indeed, military relationships can often face greater pressures due to regular relocations and families spending long periods apart due to operational postings. Although a military divorce is procedurally the same as a civilian divorce, any solicitor acting will need to understand the issues that military personnel and their families may face.
Here are some key areas which may be particularly relevant to a military family:
The courts have the power to take account of pension assets in divorce. It is required that the value of any pension held by the parties upon divorce is taken into account, and this includes any Armed Forces pensions built up by serving personnel.
There are different ways of dealing with pensions on divorce:
• Offsetting – the court can decide to allow one partner to keep their pension or a greater share of pension in return for the other partner getting a greater share of other assets
• Attachment – the court can decide to keep the pension in the name of one party, but the other party will receive payments from the pension by lump sum and/or periodical payments
• Pension sharing – the court can divide to transfer a share of it to the other party, who then becomes a member of the scheme in their own right.
Military families are known to move regularly, often with little notice given. A new posting within England and Wales may not seem too much of a big deal, but if you are separated from the child’s mother or father, issues may arise.
For example, you may need to consider whether the children should move with you and what arrangements should be made for on-going contact with the other parent. Distance, cost and time can lead to dispute and, in the absence of an agreement, the court can make a Child Arrangements Order, setting out times that the children will spend with each parent.
Removal from the Jurisdiction
It is not unusual for military families to receive a posting abroad. If you are posted abroad and have children from a previous relationship, or are considering separation and the children are to live with you, the other parent will need to give permission for you to take the children abroad to live.
In the absence of agreement, it will be necessary to make an application to the court for a specific issue order to allow the removal of the children to another country. In considering any such application, the court will look at all the circumstances of the case with the children’s welfare always being of paramount importance.
It is also important to consider under which legal jurisdiction a divorce will take place, as different rules and, most importantly, different financial solutions might apply. If stationed abroad, it is important for service personnel to be aware that there might be the possibility of a divorce in a jurisdiction other than England and Wales, and, as such, we would suggest taking immediate legal advice about the most advantageous jurisdiction for the divorce and financial settlement to be resolved in.