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Military benefits spark sham marriages

In hard economic times, people are looking for more ways to make an extra buck, even sham marriages. The military is not devoid of these sham marriages, especially in light of the fact that married servicemen and women get extra military benefits. Tampa military men and women should be aware that military sham marriages are a crime and can affect their military pension.

A recent investigation blew the covers off a ring of military sham marriages in the Marines. In this particular case, it was discovered that a ring of eight military men married Ghanaian women not for love, but for money and other benefits. Through these sham marriages, military men were entitled to extra military benefits amounting to over $20,000 per year while the Ghanaian women received the benefit of a green card. During a court-martial for one of these Marines, some witnesses shared that these sham marriages were common knowledge within the Marines. However, the military is not actively pursuing the investigation of sham marriages. The military acknowledge that sham marriages are a fraud against the government. However, the military indicates a lack of resources prevents it from truly pursuing the matter.

Military sham marriages can have a broader effect besides the fact that they expose the parties to criminal charges of fraud. What happens when the parties are ready to obtain a divorce in these sham marriages? Without knowledge of the fraud, the courts will apply the same military divorce rules to these marriages as it would a legitimate marriage. There are special rules that apply to military divorce proceedings that generally do not apply to civilian divorces. These rules can affect the division of military pensions. Military pensions are a part of a couple's assets that can be divided as marital property. Generally, military pensions are not subject to property division until there has been at least 10 years of military marriage, but courts still have the authority to divide funds after less than 10 years of marriage.

Military men and women in the Tampa area should be aware that divorce proceedings for military members are different from civilian divorces. Servicemen and women contemplating a divorce may want to consult with a family law expert that specializes in military divorce to learn more about their rights and options.

Source: Military Times, "Investigators don't actively pursue fraud marriages," Hope Hodge, April 5, 2013

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