Generally speaking, divorce is a complex process. Through this process, couples must untangle the assets they’ve accumulated together, which can be a contentious and tricky task. However, given the benefits that service members receive, military divorce can create an entirely unique set of questions to tackle.
At the same time, same-sex couples living in Texas also face challenges when looking to divide their assets. Because the state doesn’t recognize gay marriage, there is no clear legal framework to address the needs of couples who decide to break up. Now, a recent decision by the federal government and Texas National Guard could add another layer of complexity for military families headed by same-sex couples.
After the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act, government officials announced that federal benefits would be provided to legally married same-sex couples — regardless of the state they reside in. Members of the U.S. military who fell into this category were covered, but the Texas National Guard resisted. Because the state constitution forbids same-sex marriage, the National Guard wouldn’t offer benefits to these couples.
Under a recent agreement between the state and federal governments, the Texas National Guard will begin to handle and approve benefits for married same-sex couples. Federal officials will handle benefit applications for these couples in order to avoid any conflict with state laws.
Now that marital benefits will be extended to same-sex military partners, there is likely to be another consideration in asset division. Certain benefits, such as military retirement plans, are very valuable, so couples may need to address this if they end their relationships.
Given the differences in federal and state laws for marriage, same-sex couples may consider weighing their options with a family law attorney. During this time, it may be possible to create a domestic partnership agreement to cover the possibilities that life may bring.
Source: CBS News, “Texas Nat’l Guard to provide same-sex benefits, after all,’ Nov. 27, 2013