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What is Military Family Law? An Overview of Military Family Law in Maryland

On Behalf of | Jul 28, 2022 | Family Law

A military family has one or more parents or adults who serve in the United States Armed Forces. Some family members may be related to one another by marriage, blood or adoption. Military families can also include surviving spouses of retired military members or people who were killed in active duty.

  • Child Support. An active military member may be required to pay child support after a divorce has been granted. This can be true if the child in question was born in the United States or abroad.

Each nation can have its own set of rules and laws regarding child support. Every branch of the U.S. military has child support regulations. Penalties for failure to pay child support as required may be assessed. The offender could also be court-martialed or face other sanctions while active in the military.

  • Children Born Abroad. Unfortunately, children who are born on land devoted for military bases are not automatically granted United States citizenship. Those areas are not officially considered U.S. soil. Children are able to claim citizenship if their parents are currently citizens of the United States.

One or both married parents must be a U.S. citizen and have lived in the country at some point before the child was born. If only one married parent is a U.S. citizen, they must have resided in the United States for at least five years. Two of those years must have been after they turned fourteen years old. Time as a military dependent overseas or serving in the military is counted towards U.S. citizenship.

Children of nonmarried parents who were born overseas may be declared U.S. citizens if their mother is a current United States citizen who has lived in the country for at least a year. If the child’s father is the only parent who is a U.S. citizen, he must have lived in the U.S. for at least five years. Two of those years must have been after turning fourteen years old. Military service time will also be counted toward citizenship. DNA testing may be requested, and the father can acknowledge his parentage and willingness to support the child financially in writing. Children may also be naturalized after birth.

Parents living abroad who have decided that their child will be a citizen of the United States will need to visit their local consulate to apply for a Consular Report of Birth Abroad. They may also be asked to provide the child’s birth records and documents that can verify the parents’ citizenship. Once this report has been received, it can be used to confirm the child’s United States citizenship. This document can also be presented when applying for a U.S. passport for that child.

Some nations allow people to become dual citizens. The requirements can differ from one country to the next. If you want your child to become a citizen of the United States it’s important to research the citizenship laws for the country your spouse is currently serving in. Some countries may mandate military service time for young men and women, and certain dual citizens could be required to pay taxes in both nations.

Depending on where a military member is stationed, they may need visas for their children. Any active treaties that the country has with the U.S. and their respective laws will determine whether a visa will be required. Servicemembers can consult with their legal representative or commanding officer if they have questions or concerns regarding visas.

  • Child Custody. Military service members can apply for a stay of child custody and child visitation court proceedings under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA). Postponements may last for up to 90 days. When determining child custody, a judge will examine several factors including the location and duration of the parent’s deployment, any current family care plans, the age of the child and other elements that are in the child’s best interests.
  • Child Visitation. Active members of the military can be granted the same child visitation and custody rights as their former partner. Military personnel can even be designated as a child’s legal and/or physical guardian.

Many families have been able to create and sustain successful child visitation arrangements. They work around the parents’ and children’s schedules, including service time for parents who are currently serving in the military. Each partner must inform the other of vacation days, holiday plans, training sessions and deployments. No parent should have an unfair advantage over the other in any way.

If the partners cannot agree, a judge will establish a visitation schedule in a court of law. The schedules of each party and the best interests of the child will be taken into consideration. Both parents will receive a copy of the schedule and will be informed as to what notification will be required if they are late in picking up or dropping off their children, or if they need to modify the schedule due to inclement weather, medical emergencies or other reasons.

  • Marriage Laws. U.S. military members can marry any adult that they wish. Same-sex marriages are permitted. There aren’t any different marriage licenses for military members. Military couples will share assets similar to other couples, but

there are some exceptions. Military service academy cadets can’t marry unless they leave the academy or graduate as a military member. Marriages between officers and enlisted members are typically frowned upon, except for situations where two military members decide to marry and one or both become officers later on.

Military members who marry foreign nationals may have to go through a few hurdles. They will first need to confirm that the marriage is deemed legal in that particular country. Certain nations require approval by the foreign national’s parents. Certain marriages may also need to be approved by the military serviceperson’s commanding officer.

  • Divorce. A 20/20/20 rule exists for married military members. If the couple decides to divorce, the military member’s spouse can receive the same benefits that their former partner enjoyed, as long as they meet required criteria. Those benefits will be available for the rest of that person’s natural life. However, they will end if that person remarries.

To qualify, a spouse must have served in the military for at least 20 years and have been married for a minimum of 20 years. The 20 years of military service and marriage need to overlap. If the non-military spouse meets those qualifications, they can sign up for Tricare. This will need to be done under that person’s social security number and name. The Defense Finance and Accounting Service will also pay their part of the military member’s pension as needed. If the requirements are not met, it’s possible that the non-military spouse could still receive some benefits if the marriage lasted for at least   10 years, which also overlapped the servicemember’s ten or more years of service time.

Got Questions? We’ve Got Answers!

Marriage can be intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s a significant life change, but one that should be welcomed with open arms. Divorce can be unpleasant but having the right people at your side to help you navigate through the process can make things less stressful. Enlist the attorneys at JC Law and we’ll assist in the process and provide valuable advice.