I’ve written a few pieces on divorce and always tried to point out how the divorce process can be different for every couple, depending on their specific circumstances. With the amount of military families in America, it is also important to consider certain differences and issues that a military divorce may present.
The divorce process may be treated differently depending on the state, but there are certain considerations that military couples should keep in mind when contemplating divorce. Because of the nature of military service, it is possible that the couple has resided in numerous states, so the decision of where to file may not be simple. There are general requirements in most states that must be acknowledged before you may file (i.e. a separation period). You attorney can walk you through all the formalities and requirements, but there also may be additional things to consider if you or your spouse are in the military. While the general requirements will not change, one spouse’s enlistment could create logistical (or strategic) issues during the process.
For example, if the spouse is deployed, it is difficult to even get the papers served, especially depending on the location of deployment. In most cases, military couples are encouraged to not file for divorce while one spouse is deployed, but it may happen in certain situations. Additionally, if your state has a required separation period, it is possible that a spouse’s deployment may count towards that requirement. If the couple still chooses to initiate the divorce in that situation, it is possible that the process may nonetheless be continued or delayed by the court until the deployed spouse returns home. This is possible through the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. The Act serves to protect the military spouse’s rights and ensure that he/she will have the opportunity to adequately protect themselves in the proceeding. While the Act will not automatically grant the continuance or postponement of the divorce proceedings, it is important to understand that it is a possibility.
In addition to state-based considerations and deployment issues, there may be other Federal regulations which could affect your divorce. The Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act concerns the division of disposable retired military pay. It also may address eligibility for continued medical coverage and other military benefits for the non-service member spouse.
In addition to the general divorce process, there are additional benefits-related issues for military couples and families. For example, there are commissary benefits that may need to be addressed. The main consideration will be the length of marriage, the length of military service, and the number of overlapping years of the two. Determining full and partial benefits will be based on those considerations.
If the military couple has children, there may also be additional child support considerations. Branches of the military have requirements for support (in the absence of a court order or support agreement). These requirements are normally only temporary, but it is an additional issue that may affect the process.
When writing about divorce (and most family law issues), I try to reiterate the fact that processes will be different for every family, and everyone will have different issues to consider. A military divorce should be looked at in the same way. While there may be some complicated requirements to navigate, your attorney can help ease the process by walking you through what to expect and the requirements that will apply to your situation.