Uniform Code of Military Justice and In Rem Orders in Divorce Cases


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For military service members, each person that serves with the military must follow the Uniform Code of Military Justice or the UCMJ of which is a federal law that Congress enacted. This governs criminal offenses in military law, the military justice system and may coincide with In Rem orders that connect divorce cases for the military member.

The UCMJ governs court-martials for military servicemembers through several types of sanctions under military law. These court-martials are similar to a federal conviction of an illegal act, and they could end in jail or prison terms at the worst. A punitive discharge may happen where the servicemember acquires a dishonorable discharge with fines and a reduction in rank as well as an expulsion from active service. When affecting the person through a divorce, it could alter pay for retirement, pension and other military benefits. The rank reduction may also reduce monetary benefits of the servicemember after he or she reaches the demoted rank.

Reduction in Benefits

When a military servicemember faces a UCMJ action, he or she may rise from one rank only to fall below for a court-martial or similar action against him or her. Benefits received through retirement accounts, pensions and other monetary amounts often reduce or increase significantly based on rank. When the person leaves the military active duty, he or she may not have any chances of raising his or her rank again. Then, when the person divorces his or her spouse, any benefits shared through divorce judgment will reduce as well based on the rank and new action requiring the monetary amounts to reflect his or her ranks.

The Military Divorce

While most military divorces do not provide any automatic benefits to the former spouse, he or she could through a state court obtain up to half of retirement benefits, pension and military pay from the servicemember while on active or inactive duty or once in retirement. The former wife or husband may make use of In Rem orders in the divorce process to exact enough compensation to provide until a suitable job is found. Similar circumstances may permit an ex-spouse the opportunity to petition the courts for alimony. The divorce process may run through the UCMJ and force the servicemember to provide monetary support to the spouse after the divorce finalizes.

The Reduction in Pay with Divorce

If the military servicemember faces a negative action through the UCMJ, he or she may find his or her pay reduced as rank decreases. This could lead to a forfeiture of up to two-thirds of his or her pay for a single month or longer. Sometimes, the individual may even face a reduction in the lowest possible pay grade with all benefits summarily decreased to match. This will cause the divorce judgment to lower ho much the ex-spouse will receive as his or her former military spouse is unable to pay any more. If the person remarries or is no longer eligible for these benefits, the UCMJ may cut off all payments to the former spouse.

Working through the Process

When the military servicemember may face a divorce settlement that works in conjunction with the UCMJ or In Rem orders, he or she may need to hire a military lawyer. It is important to ensure that any affect income is as low as possible when supporting the spouse over a prolonged period or when in retirement. The other spouse may remarry or seek employment that will provide the same benefits as the support, and if he or she has the employment and the military monetary benefits, the quality of life increases significantly for the former spouse and decreases for the military servicemember. In addition to complications with rank and pay, this could cause hardship in paying bills and keeping afloat as the years pass.

To work through the process, the lawyer may need to decrease the chances of higher benefits to the former spouse at the time of divorce. This is possible by providing evidence of a peaceful marriage with no ethical problems, violence or abuse and emotional and monetary support during the relationship.

The Lawyer in Military Divorces and Military Justice

If the servicemember is able to end his or her service honorably, he or she may have little problems in military justice. However, complications in these matters may affect income drastically. Hiring a lawyer for the divorce proceedings could increase the capacity to retain benefits and retirement pay.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.

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