Separation & Divorce

Contents

01   What happens when we decide to separate?

Your soldier’s Local Service Commander may allow a ‘cooling off’ period (up to a maximum of three months) where the Service person can move into Single Living Accommodation (SLA,) or private accommodation, but will continue to pay SFA charges.

After the ‘cooling off’ period or as soon as it becomes apparent that there will not be reconciliation, the serving person then needs to change their Personal Status Category (PStat category)

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02   When does the Service person have to change their PStat category?

As soon as you have decided to formally separate, the Service person should inform their unit of their change in PStat category.

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03   Can I ask the Unit Welfare Office for support even though we are separated?

Each Unit Welfare Office may deal with things differently but should provide information and support to families transitioning from Army to civilian life, including information on vacating the SFA and removals.

Other agencies also offer support and advice, such as:

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04   Housing

When do I need to move out of my SFA?
The Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) Loss of Entitlement Team can offer support during this period. Click here for more information.

Once the Service person has informed their unit of their change of PStat category, the unit will inform the Amey Occupancy Services Team. DIO will then issue a Notice to Vacate, giving you 93 days to leave the SFA.

The 93 days are up in the middle of my son’s GCSEs, can we retain our SFA until they’re finished?
To retain your SFA longer than the 93 days, you must complete the Proportionality Form, and submit it to the Irregular Occupancies Team with all the relevant information and supporting evidence.

Where do I live now?
There are different housing options, such as private rental, Housing Association housing and social housing. Social housing is not easily accessible in many areas, and it is important to consider all possible options and locations.

Local Authorities do have a duty of care to house homeless people, but it may be in a B&B or hostel rather than a permanent house.

How do I apply for social housing?

  • Talk to your current Local Authority and register as homeless
  • Your Notice to Vacate should be taken as proof of homelessness
  • Talk to the Local Authority you want to move to – they may allow direct applications
  • Talk to your Local Authority’s homeless department and ask a Housing Officer to outline other housing options
  • Talk to Citizens Advice to ensure you know what housing and other benefits you’re entitled to
  • Contact the Joint Service Housing Advice Office who can offer information on your civilian housing options

Can the Armed Forces Covenant help me apply for social housing?

When I move out, will the Army pay for my removals?
If your family has separated and is moving out of your SFA, you get your removals paid for. Your Unit Welfare Officer should help you apply for removals through Agility. However, if you subsequently reunite and move back in together, you have to pay for this removal yourself.

My spouse has left me and I am still in the SFA. Can I stop them coming into the SFA?
Once their Pstat category has been changed, the spouse becomes the licencee of the SFA, although the Service person will still be required to pay for it.

There should ideally be a mini handover from the Service person to the spouse on separating, so keys may be handed over then but as the Service person still pays for the SFA, the legal basis of whether they can enter is unclear.

Will the Army provide suitable accommodation for my estranged serving partner so the children can stay with them at weekends/holidays?
Divorced Service personnel who do not have full or sole custody of their children are not currently entitled to SFA unless there is a surplus available, which is rare in most areas.

They can use contact/welfare houses, where available. Otherwise, DIO has no responsibility for providing accommodation for single/divorced personnel to have visits from their children.

Am I entitled to Universal Credit to help with housing costs?

AFF has discovered that it is not possible to claim the housing costs element of Universal Credit if you have separated from your Service person but remain in your SFA.

This is because once the licence to occupy the property has finished (at the end of your 93 days), you will be charged ‘mesne’ profits if you stay in the SFA (whether or not this has been agreed with the Loss of Entitlement Team (LOET)).

Unfortunately, Mesne profits are not considered eligible housing costs under Universal Credit (in the way they were eligible under housing benefit), so any charges that are required after a tenancy has been ended will not be considered for housing costs support within Universal Credit.

AFF is investigating this and will provide an update in due course.

The following benefits calculator will be able to give you an estimate of help you would be eligible for if you were in private rented or social housing. 

benefits-calculator.turn2us.org.uk/AboutYou
www.entitledto.co.uk

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05   Finances & Pensions

What financial help am I entitled to?

What financial help you would be eligible for would depend on your current circumstances. The following benefits calculators are a good starting point to give you an indication of what you can claim based on your circumstances and give more information on how to claim.

www.entitledto.co.uk
benefits-calculator.turn2us.org.uk/AboutYou

If you need help to pay bills or other costs while awaiting your claim for Universal Credit you may be able to get an advance of Universal Credit. For more information see the following link: www.gov.uk/guidance/universal-credit-advances

Am I entitled to my ex-Service partner’s pension?
During this very stressful period, it is wise to think clearly about your future finances and ensure they are sorted before the Decree Absolute.

The Armed Forces Pension can be the biggest asset in the divorce, so it is important this is settled before the divorce is finalised; it will be very difficult to access any of your spouse’s pension after the Decree Absolute.

As each divorce settlement is individual to each couple, it is best to seek professional legal advice from someone with knowledge of the Armed Forces Pension Scheme (AFPS). The Law Society website can help with this search.

It is important to highlight that, due to the Armed Forces lifestyle, spouses encounter barriers to employment and therefore cannot fully build their own personal pension; this needs to be taken into account when looking at future finances.

The Services Insurance and Investment Advisory Panel (SIIAP), which is endorsed by the MOD, can signpost you to specialist providers.

In order to split the pension fairly, the first step is to find out what the pension is worth. Veterans UK provide lots of information about the Armed Forces Pensions and Divorce, including getting a pensions valuation and Cash Equivalent Transfer Value (CETV).

For more information, visit www.gov.uk – Pension sharing charges – see section on divorce.

Some of the more common ways to deal with the pension are:

  • Pension sharing – you are awarded a percentage of share of your ex-partner’s pension
  • Pension’s attachment – you receive an agreed amount of your ex-partner’s net pension income or a lump sum when the pension starts being paid to them
  • Pension offsetting – the value of the pension is offset against your other assets, e.g. you may keep a share of shared property in exchange for your ex-partner keeping their pension

Contact the Forces Pension Society or Claire Hallam, the Money & Allowances Specialist at moneyallowances@aff.org.uk for further advice.

For more information, see:
Pension on divorce or dissolution of a civil partnership. Charging regime
The Pensions Advisory Service – When relationships end – Divorce, dissolution and separation

How can I claim child maintenance?

There are different options available for arranging child maintenance. If you both agree you could make an agreement between yourselves. The link below offers guidance on arranging a child maintenance agreement yourself and mediation if your cannot agree.

www.gov.uk/making-child-maintenance-arrangement/arrange-child-maintenance-yourself

The child maintenance calculator can be used to give you a starting point in discussions or show you the amount the government would calculate for you. See more information below.

www.gov.uk/calculate-child-maintenance

If you are unable to come to an agreement yourself, you can contact the Child Maintenance Service. There is an application fee of £20 but this does not apply if you are a victim of domestic violence or abuse, under 19 years old or in Northern Ireland. You would need to contact Child Maintenance Options first and get a reference number.  For more information please see:

www.gov.uk/making-child-maintenance-arrangement/using-child-maintenance-service

If you have difficulty with child maintenance claims please contact the AFF Money & Allowances Specialist moneyallowances@aff.org.uk

What if I divorce in Scotland?
In England, Wales or Northern Ireland, the total value of the pension benefits you have each built up at the date of the divorce or dissolution of the civil partnership is taken into account. This is all of your pensions, whether you built them up before or during your marriage/civil partnership.

In Scotland, only the value of the pensions you have both built up during your marriage or civil partnership is taken into account. This means that anything built up before you were married/became civil partners or anything built up after your date of separation does not count. Your pensions will be valued at the date of separation.

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06   Overseas

What if we separate overseas? Do I still only have 93 days to move out?
If your family is returning to the UK from overseas following a PStat Cat change /estrangement the soldier should apply for a SFA in the UK for their spouse. Amey Occupancy Services should then notify the Loss of Entitlement Team (LOET) of the move-in date once arranged. The LOET will wait for the move-in to be confirmed and will then issue a Notice To Vacate (NTV) to both parties for a 93 day notice period. Please be aware that the LOET carry out a Proportionality Exercise review to ascertain the future plans of the spouse. The spouse will become liable to pay Damage For Trespass rates from the expiry of the NTV if they haven’t vacated the SFA and DIO may then commence the legal process to gain possession of the SFA – which usually takes around eleven weeks from requesting to eviction.

Be aware that the allocation of an SFA to an estranged spouse/civil partner after change in PStat category may be seen by Local Housing Authorities (LHA) as re-housing and may prejudice LHA housing allocations. For this reason, try to delay the change in PStat category until you return to the UK and are allocated an SFA.

I am a divorced Service person posted overseas, will the Army pay for my children to visit?
The current rules state that divorced Service personnel are not entitled to funded School Children’s Visits for their children to visit them overseas.

We have children from a previous relationship but am now married to a Service person who has been posted overseas for their next job. Do I have to get permission to take my children from my previous relationship with us?
If you have children from a previous relationship that you wish to take overseas, whether as a spouse or as a Service person, it is best to seek professional legal advice as you will need permission from the other parent.

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07   Employment

How can I get help finding or changing my job?

There are some circumstances when a divorcing spouse may need to change careers or start a new one. This could be because of a move to a new location or because of the fact that becoming a single parent now requires more flexibility in order to support your family. However, inevitably your financial situation will have changed too which often means you may need to increase your income.

In the first instance you may need to talk to your employer about flexible or home working options to enable you to begin divorce proceedings. Please visit the ACAS website for more information and guidance about how to do this.

When the time is right to start looking for your new career, please visit Forces Families Jobs and upload your CV. You will be able to search and apply online as well as set up job alerts for specific jobs, locations and salaries. You might also want to consider opportunities for training on the site.

Please contact employmenttraining@aff.org.uk for further advice.

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