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Members of the Armed Forces and their families may face special challenges associated with the risks they undertake while serving our country. In recognition of the unique circumstances and issues that military families encounter, specific laws have been enacted to protect their rights and property. Below is an overview of some of the major laws unique to military family law cases.
Servicemembers Civil Relief Act
Pursuant to the SCRA, service members may apply for a stay of any civil action, including family law cases, that have been initiated while the service member was on active duty or within 90 days of release from active duty. The purpose of the Act is obvious: to minimize distraction and allow members of the Armed Forces to focus on defending our country. The Act protects military service members from default judgment and provides for a stay. The protections provided by the Act are not permanent.
Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act
The USFSPA is federal law recognizing the ability of state courts to divide military retired pay as part of divorce proceedings. The law requires that the SCRA, mentioned above, was properly followed in the family law case. For orders dividing military retired pay as property to be enforced by the USFSPA, the service member and the former spouse must have been married for at least 10 years, during which time the service member performed at least 10 years of military service creditable towards retirement eligibility. This is known as "the 10/10 rule."
Uniform Deployed Parents Custody and Visitation Act
The UDPCVA was adopted in Oklahoma in 2011. It provides protection for both civilian and military personnel who are deployed. If a parent is deployed and takes legal action pursuant to this statute, the deploying parent is entitled to transfer his or her parenting time to a step-parent, family member, or to another designated person. In 2019, the Oklahoma Supreme Court issued an opinion in Kohler v. Chambers, 2019 OK 2, clarifying the application of the UDPCVA in Oklahoma.
Other Military Family Law Protections
VA disability, Combat-Related Special Compensation, and military disability retired pay are protected from property division awards in divorce. Oklahoma's alimony law expressly states, "a court shall not consider disability compensation received by a party from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs for service-related injuries for any purpose." However, if there is an increase in service-related disability income due to the veteran having dependents, that dependent-related increase may be used in divorce calculations.
How We Can Help
Family law disputes involving members of the United States Armed Forces require special attention to detail and knowledge of the applicable state, federal, and administrative rules. Our attorneys have represented both military and civilian spouses and parents in cases impacted by the unique demands of service. Kathleen Egan was one of the appellate attorneys in the Kohler case mentioned above, and we have been consulted by other attorneys for our professional opinion on dividing military retired pay. Contact us if you wish to schedule a consultation for a military family law issue.