Why are military divorces different from civilian divorces?

Just as marriage and parenting are different for military families compared to civilian families, the divorce process can look very different for couples where one or both spouses serve in the military. How might military service change your divorce?

You and your spouse may reside in different states.

Because military service often takes servicemembers away from their spouse for long periods, you and your spouse may have established legal residence in two different states. As a result, you may be able to file in either state.

Your access to benefits may depend on the length of your marriage and the duration of military service.

The Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act (USFSPA) allows state courts to divide military servicemembers’ pay, including their retirement pension, during the divorce process. However, not every spouse can receive their share of those retirement benefits directly from the government. Only former spouses married to a servicemember for at least ten years and whose marriage overlapped with at least ten years of military service can receive their portion of that retired pay directly.

Ex-spouses of servicemembers may also have access to other benefits after divorce. However, the availability of these benefits depends on the duration of their marriage and the length of their former spouse’s service. Under the USFSPA, for example, former spouses may remain eligible for TRICARE health care benefits after their divorce as long as they meet specific requirements.

You may need to consider additional details in your parenting plan.

Because of their career path, active servicemembers may need to relocate or find themselves deployed on relatively short notice. If they share custody of their child, it can be difficult for them to uphold their responsibilities under their existing parenting plan.

Parents going through a military divorce may want to include additional details in their plan so that the serving parent can maintain their connection with their child while also serving their country. Parents, for example, may want to create a plan for virtual visitation using video chat, phone calls or other technology during deployment.

Military divorces often involve additional complexity. However, with the proper guidance and legal strategy, service members and their former spouses can support their best interests during the divorce process.

Practice Areas

Military Law
Family Law
Social Security Disability
Worker’s Compensation
Personal Injury