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Tacoma military divorce includes bigamy charges

Military families facing a split need to be prepared for complicated questions arising from deployment and relocation. A Tacoma woman, however, was totally unprepared for a special complexity in her military divorce: alleged bigamy.

The woman's husband, unbeknownst to her, had allegedly filed a forged divorce decree more than five years ago in a rural court in Eastern Washington state so that he could marry someone else. The couple had separated in 2008. They had four children.

The woman and the couple's children relied on military health insurance after the separation and were left to pay thousands in medical expenses because of the fraudulent divorce.

The man is a staff sergeant in the Army and faced charges for violating military law, including forgery, adultery and bigamy. The Army dropped the charges just before the court-martial hearing.

However, a judge in family court two weeks ago finalized the couple's legitimate divorce and ordered the man to reimburse his ex-wife for the unpaid medical bills, her share of his military pay and retirement benefits, as well as military housing subsidies. The judge also awarded alimony and attorney's fees to the woman.

This case was especially unusual in that it involved an allegedly forged divorce decree. The reimbursement of housing subsidies in this order, however, is an example of the unique issues that can arise in military divorces. Retirement benefits are often allocated differently in military divorces than they are in civilian divorces. Parenting plans also need to be developed very carefully and thoroughly to address deployment. Custody issues related to jurisdiction, such as those we discussed in an earlier entry to this blog, should be anticipated so that there are no surprises later.

Source: The News Tribune, "Tacoma woman wins divorce from former Army bigamy suspect," Christian Hill, Sep. 7, 2012

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