For military families in Michigan, it can be particularly difficult to think about divorce and its various implications. How will divorce impact finances? What does divorce look like when one member of the family is deployed? These are just a couple of the questions that military families often ask when it comes to divorce. To better understand the ways in which divorce impacts military families in Michigan, we can explore some of the specific laws that relate to family situations involving service members. A Michigan Guide to Military Family Law, prepared by the Michigan Department of Attorney General and Thomas M. Cooley Law School’s Center for Ethics, Service, and Professionalism, helps to explain how certain family law issues work when military families are involved.
Service of Process: How Are Divorce Papers Served on Active Duty Members of the Armed Forces in Michigan?
One of the first questions you might be asking is how service of process will work with an active service member. How does this work, for instance, if your spouse is a service member housed either off-post or on-post and within the country? How does the answer to this question change when the service member is deployed?
As the Guide explains, a service member who is housed off-post within the United States can be served in the same manner as any civilian. However, this looks a bit different when the service member is housed on a military installation. The process server might not be able to gain access to the service member. Depending on the specific military installation, issues of state and federal jurisdiction may differ. In many situations, military authorities may be able to assist with service. Notably, Michigan law permits service by mail. As such, the Guide emphasizes that “it is generally easier for plaintiffs to serve active duty members of the Armed Forces by mail.”
Now, what happens when a service member is overseas? The Guide clarifies that “military policies governing service of process abroad are generally similar to those that apply within the United States in areas of exclusive federal jurisdiction.” In general, you may still be able to rely on U.S. mail, and you also may be able to receive help from a military authority overseas. You should discuss your situation with a Michigan divorce lawyer who can help you with this process.
Division of Assets and Military Pensions
Another common question concerning military divorce is whether a military pension is considered a divisible asset during divorce. In brief, military pensions can indeed be divided during the stage of property division. How the former spouse will receive payments from a military pension depends largely upon how long the marriage lasted, and the length of military service. Specifically, if a marriage lasted for at least 10 years, and if the service member gave at least 10 years of military service, the former spouse can receive payments directly from the U.S. military.
However, even if the former spouse is entitled to direct payments from the military, they cannot exceed 50 percent of the service member’s disposable retirement. This does not mean that a court is prevented from awarding more than 50 percent to a former spouse during property division, only that no more than 50 percent can be paid directly by the military.
Contact a Michigan Divorce Attorney
Resolving questions about military divorce can be complicated. An experienced Michigan divorce lawyer can help. Contact Iafrate & Salassa, P.C. today to learn more.