Military Divorce in New Jersey
The answer to your first question is “yes,” you can bring your military divorce action in New Jersey if you or your spouse are stationed in or residents of New Jersey. The state is flexible in divorce residency requirements for service members. If you are in the military and are considering filing in New Jersey you should consult with an experienced divorce lawyer in NJ.
Military divorces have considerations far beyond that of a non-military divorce in every area of the action. Familiarity with these issues is of the utmost importance, in part, because of the mobility of service members as well as the special handling of military benefits including pension and disability.Military pension and disability
On occasion, a service person acts to convert as much of their pension as possible to disability in an attempt to avoid distribution in a divorce action. Though the military will not allow the division of disability to the spouse, that does not prevent New Jersey Courts from making distribution. This situation is very similar to receiving military pension benefits that are in excess of the amount the military will allow. The New Jersey Court makes the decision on distribution of the pension or disability. The court then orders the service member to pay directly to the other party all amounts the military will not distribute to the spouse. It is extremely important to be dealing with someone that has familiarity with these issues so that you do not lose any portion of your due entitlement under New Jersey and military standards.Health insurance after divorce
Another issue specific to a military divorce is that if you have been married for 20 years of military service, even after divorce from the service member, you can keep military benefits, most importantly, military insurance for life.Child support/spousal support
New Jersey considers all monies and benefits showing on a service member’s earnings statement, called a LES, as income for child and spousal support purposes even if the IRS does not. All types of specialized pay such as battle pay and jump pay are in the pot, as is housing allowance (BAH), subsistence allowance (BAS) and cost of living allowance. Where there may not be funds paid to the member for specific benefits such as base housing, the court assigns a value to the benefit, adding it to the income figure.
Absent a court order or agreement for support, command will require a percentage amount of income and benefits to be paid for the children and spouse.Service Member’s Relief Act (formerly Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Relief Act)
During deployment and other limiting circumstances, a service member may seek relief under this Act to put a pending litigation on hold. Upon making the request for relief under the Service Member’s Relief Act, the court may stay the matter, put it on hold, for 90 days, though that amount of time may be extended.
When a child support action is involved, the New Jersey courts do not necessarily agree to a stay under this Act. New Jersey court take the position that they can make the decision without any participation of the service member if the court has the tax return and LES of the service member, with no consideration of any basis to vary from guidelines the service member may have to present. Clearly, it is best to have representation in the event the court chooses not to grant relief under the Act, so that someone is there on the service member’s behalf to prevent a decision absent any participation by the service member. If you have any questions about a military divorce in New Jersey, call Peter Van Aulen an experienced divorce lawyer in NJ at (201) 845-7400 for a free consultation.