Divorcing your spouse can be difficult under the best of circumstances, and a military divorce is no different. However, a military divorce can be different when it comes to the legal process itself. Learn more about what you can expect during a divorce if you and/or your spouse are a member of the U.S. armed forces.
How Do Military Divorces Compare to Civilian Divorces?
Divorce laws vary on a state-by-state basis. However, if you're seeking a divorce and you or your spouse is a member of the U.S. armed forces, your divorce proceedings will be governed by additional federal laws and military-specific regulations.
These laws and regulations include the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, which can toll the time limits for responding to court documents if the person being served with these documents is on active duty. The Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act (USFSPA) also provides some protections to the spouses of military members during and after the divorce. Under the USFSPA, a former military spouse who has not yet remarried can be eligible for medical coverage and commissary privileges, among other benefits, if the spouse spent 20 years or more married to a military member for at least 20 years of the member's creditable military service.
But though these additional protections can assist both spouses in untangling their marriage and moving on, there are many ways in which civilian and military divorces are similar. Issues like child custody, child support, and the division of assets aren't generally in the military's purview, nor does the military want to be intimately involved in these decisions. A civilian attorney (albeit one with experience in military divorces) will be able to guide you through the process of dividing assets and time with your children and can help negotiate all disputed issues with your soon-to-be-ex-spouse.
What Rights Do You Have?
All servicemembers and their family members should be able to get free legal advice through the legal assistance offices at your installation, though both spouses cannot be represented by the same attorney. Regardless of whether you seek legal assistance through an installation attorney or a civilian attorney, your conversations with your military divorce lawyer are private and can't be disclosed.
If you and your spouse agree on most issues, your divorce doesn't need to be a contentious or expensive process. However, even if it's tempting to go the process alone, it's a good idea to seek legal advice before permanently ending your marriage. A divorce attorney with military-specific experience can ensure your property, parenting, and due process rights are protected throughout the process.