How Military Divorces Can Differ from Civilian Ones

Divorce is a terrible situation for most people, and much of the experience is made worse by how tedious and long the process can be for most couples. Being in the military can complicate every factor of your life, from child custody to healthcare, so it’s not a surprise that military divorces are more complicated than the typical termination.

4 Unique Differences in a Military Divorce

The average divorce is impacted by many factors, like the current relationship between the separating spouse and finances. Shared assets, income, and benefits packages matter greatly in a civilian divorce, and they are very important aspects of a military divorce.

Here are a few ways an active-duty military career can complicate your divorce:

  • Knowing Where to File: It seems like knowing where to file for your divorce should be an easy thing to decide, but when you are in the military, this isn’t always a straightforward issue. You may live in a state where the military has sent you and your spouse for work, but your state of residence could be different. Many military families have more than one house because they may have purchased homes in more than one duty station. Before you can file for divorce in a state, you need to be attached to that state through residency, or it can be your military spouse’s home of record. All of these examples become even more complicated if you have children. Your child’s custody case will need to be handled in the state where they reside. So, for military couples with children, the easiest choice is the state where you currently reside if that’s an option. You have to live in a state for six months in most cases.
  • Parenting Plans & Custody Arrangements: Parenting plans can bring out the pain points in an already fraught relationship between divorcing spouses. It’s difficult to work with someone you want to be separated from and remove from your life. As a military spouse and family, creating a parenting plan is even more difficult when you have limited control over where you will live every two to three years. Child custody arrangements are a state law issue, but what if the service member is deployed or living at a base abroad? These are complicated divorce issues that require detailed planning and legal assistance to ensure paperwork is filed in the right places.
  • Possible Lengthy Proceeding: Military servicemembers are protected during their divorce proceedings by the Servicemember Civil Relief Act (SCRA.) This law can slow down your divorce tremendously. If you are trying to divorce a service member who is away on military orders, they can file a request to have the proceedings paused until they can finish their work and return to the area. This law aims to make sure the military personnel is afforded the same right to prepare and represent their position as their civilian spouse.
  • Dividing Retirement Accounts: Military retirement annuities may not automatically be included in asset division. For example, VA benefits are not considered retirement, but a normal military retirement could be if the marriage meets the time requirements. Once the couple has reviewed all their other assets and debts, there may be circumstances where the civilian spouse qualifies for a share of the servicemember’s pension, but there are requirements that must be met.

In most ways, a military divorce will be the same as a civilian one. Still, in those instances where it differs, you may need to seek legal representation from an attorney who can help you find the right information for your situation. You want to be prepared with the information you need to ensure you are filing the correct paper and receiving the benefits and assets you are entitled to according to the law.

Palmer Rodak & Associates can help you develop a strategy for your military divorce. Don’t make assumptions about your divorce. Call us today at (760) 573-2223 to schedule a consultation.