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What sets apart a military divorce from a civilian divorce?

On Behalf of | May 14, 2020 | Divorce, Family Law |

You’ve been a supportive spouse since your partner enlisted in the military; however, over time, it has been difficult to maintain a workable marriage. When more time is spent apart than together, this begins to weigh heavy on you, and it has finally reached the point where you want to discuss divorce. Ending a marriage means going against the vows that united you and your spouse, but when life apart appears more beneficial than life together, it is important to consider how the military divorce process will impact both you are your military spouse.

What sets a military divorce apart from a civilian divorce are the special rules that apply to U.S. services members and their spouses during the process. Because you are not a military member, you may not be fully informed about these special rules that pertain to compliance with support payments, residency, filing and service of process requirements and the division of military pensions.

With regards to residency requirements, military members, as well as their spouses, have three options when it comes to filing for divorce. This includes the state where the spouse lives, the state where the military spouse is stationed or the state where the military member claims legal residency. Whichever state is chosen, those state laws will be used to determine the grounds for divorce, property division, custody and support issues.

Depending on the state, military retirement pay may be treated like sole or marital property. Thus, it is possible it could be divided like any other property up for division. This is because there is no formula provided for the division of military retirement pay.

When it comes to military pensions and retirement, this is also dependent on the number of years they were married. If they were married at least 10 years and the military member served at least 10 years, then the spouse is entitled to a share of military retirement pay that is paid directly to their former spouse by the Defense Finance and Accounting Service. Spouses are also entitled to full medical, commissary and exchange privileges if they were married 20 or more years, the service member served at least 20 creditable years of service towards retirement pay and there was at least 20 years of overlap of marriage with service.

It is important to note the special rules the military has regarding alimony and child support. Thus, a court may enforce these obligations through a court order, garnishment or voluntary or involuntary allotment.

A military divorce is not like a civilian divorce. While both include major decision-making that includes property division, custody and support, a military divorce includes specific laws that pertain to military pensions and benefits. For a military spouse, he or she will want to protect these benefits during the divorce process; however, for you, as a civilian spouse, you want to ensure that you obtain the benefits that are rightfully yours.


Contact Dorothea G. Aguero, Attorney at Law, P.C.