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I Was Cheated on my Divorce Settlement

Ms. Vicki

Dear Ms. Vicki,

I feel very foolish right now.  I was divorced from my husband in July of 2011.  I had no money for legal counsel, so I allowed my husband have the papers drawn up.  He had the money to do so. 

We were married for 26 years.  We married in 1984 and he retired in 1999.  He told me I had no rights to any of his retirement or healthcare any longer. Believing everything he said, I signed the papers.

I now get a check from him each month for $800.00 alimony.  I was supposed to get $40,000 for my share of our home and got $31,000.  He said I owed him for paying for me to get out of the house. 

It was a very emotional time. After two years I'm still not able to hold a job. I'm depressed all the time.  I left Florida and my sons behind because I felt I wasn't welcome to live in the same state as my ex and his new wife. 

From what I've read, I have no chance of taking him back to court as per the divorce decree.   Please give me any advice that you can.  I'm feeling very lost.  

Sincerely,
Divorced Spouse

Dear Spouse,

This sounds very stressful and depressing too. I hope you will be able to move forward and be happy and healthy.  Your divorce is over but other spouses can learn from your experiences:

I think the biggest mistake that you and other former spouses make is that you did not have legal counsel.  You probably believed that your husband would be fair towards you. Your story shows how wrong this is.

You were married for 26 years but you were married to him for 15 years of his military service. Under the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act, retirement pay is treated as property in a divorce instead of income. You could have been entitled to up to half of that since you were married for more than ten years of his career.  But that the criteria had to be included as part of the divorce settlement agreement.

As for medical benefits, you should check your eligibility for Tricare by contacting DEERS through their toll-free number, 1-800-538-9552, to discuss your individual circumstances.

I always advise spouses to get some legal counsel because you cannot trust that a spouse will be fair in a divorce proceeding-- especially when they have moved on with a different partner.

I hope you have some friends or family that you can depend on for support. You are not barred from visiting or living in Florida. For this reason, I hope you can reconnect with your sons. Hopefully their relationship would be a great “pick me up” and support for you. In the meantime, I would contact Ex -Partners of Service Members for Equality (EX-POSE). You can go to  www.ex-pose.org. Their goals are to:

•Educate our members and the public about a spouse's rights and benefits in military separation and divorce.

•Provide information resources to assist military spouses in making informed decisions during the divorce process.

•Support the Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act.

•Provide helpful resources for abused military spouses.

•Protect the personal contact information of our members for their privacy and safety, when that is their choice

You can also contact them at 703-941-5844 Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday 11:00am - 3:00pm (EST).

I know people personally who have been helped by this organization after a divorce from a servicemember. I’m very confident that they would be able to help you.

In the meantime, I think you should make an appointment to see a general physician to discuss your depressive symptoms because I don’t want the symptoms to get worse. Please keep in touch with me to let me know how you are doing and to give me any information about how EXPOSE helped you. It will be helpful to me and other readers.

Sincerely,
Ms. Vicki

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Contributor

Ms. Vicki is a native of Dallas, has been the Dear Abby for the military community since her column began in 2005. A licensed therapist and licensed clinical social worker, Ms. Vicki holds a Master of Science in social work and a Master of Arts in clinical psychology.

Ms. Vicki appears regularly on Military.com and in the Fort Campbell Courier. Her column has also appeared in the Washington (D.C.) Times and in the Heidelberg (Germany) Post Herald. She has been featured on CNN, CBS, ABC and NBC.

Looking for advice about your military life? Email Ms. Vicki here. Find Ms. Vicki on Facebook here.  Find Ms. Vicki on Twitter here.

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