If you've recently filed for divorce from a military service member, you may be concerned about your ability to financially provide for your future on your own. Because the military lifestyle often necessitates frequent relocation, it can be difficult for a civilian spouse to advance in his or her chosen career; after a few moves, you may have chosen to become a stay-at-home spouse (or parent) or just worked part-time for some extra spending money. In other cases, you may suspect that your military spouse is hiding assets or diverting pay in order to keep his or her settlement amount as low as possible. Read on to learn more about the services a forensic accountant can provide, as well as the assets to which you may be entitled as a former military spouse.

What does a forensic accountant do during divorce proceedings? 

While a forensic accountant isn't necessary in every divorce, if you have financial concerns -- from worrying that your soon-to-be-ex is spending money on an affair to concerns about secret bank accounts or credit cards -- enlisting one's services can be useful. Like a forensic pathologist, who performs an autopsy to determine the cause of death, a forensic accountant performs an "autopsy" of your marital finances, pulling credit reports and tracking down bank accounts to track income and spending patterns. After conducting this research, the forensic accountant can then provide you with a detailed analysis of both your and your spouse's spending over a specified period of time. 

If your soon-to-be-ex has been spending marital assets on an affair or secreting them away for his or her own use in an account without your name, you may be able to use this information to petition the court for a more favorable settlement. In some cases, particularly if your spouse has been uncooperative with the process, you may be able to request that fees for the forensic accountant's services be paid from your ex-spouse's share of the settlement rather than your own.

For more information, contact a company like Epps Forensic Consulting PLLC.

What are you entitled to receive in a military divorce settlement?

Although divorce laws (particularly those governing the division of marital assets) are generally handled on a state-by-state basis, military divorce is addressed by a series of federal laws. Some laws are designed to protect those who are deployed from being served with divorce papers (and potentially being found in default) in their absence, while others attempt to prevent a breadwinner military member from leaving his or her ex-spouse and children high and dry without a steady source of income.

In general, as long as you and your military spouse were married for at least 10 years, you should be entitled to at least half of his or her military pension after retirement (in most cases, 20 years from enlistment). While you won't begin receiving this pension until after your ex-spouse retires, this can be an excellent way to shore up retirement savings that may be inadequate or help put your children through college. However, if you're concerned your ex-spouse will refuse to retire simply out of spite, you may want to use your right to a part of the pension as a negotiating tool to receive a greater share of marital assets than which you'd otherwise be entitled.

Once your marriage hits the 10-year mark, you'll also be entitled to claim Social Security income on your ex-spouse's earnings record, rather than your own. For those whose military ex-spouses have earned a high income for decades, this could take your retirement from sparse to comfortable -- and unlike the division of a military pension, claiming your ex-spouse's Social Security won't take anything out of his or her pocket.