Adams Law Firm > Blog > Divorce > Filing for Divorce in the Military

Filing for Divorce in the Military

Military couples face unique challenges when they decide to divorce, often making the process even more complex and emotionally taxing than it is for civilians.

The transient nature of military life complicates matters of residency and jurisdiction since the service member and their spouse may have different states of residence. The choice of where to file for divorce can have significant implications for property division, alimony, and child custody.

Dividing military benefits, such as pensions and healthcare, is governed by federal and state laws, requiring specific legal knowledge. Child custody arrangements can be particularly challenging when one parent may be deployed or stationed elsewhere, requiring divorcing spouses to create parenting plans that account for these military-specific scenarios.

Serving an active-duty spouse with divorce papers is also more complicated, especially if they are deployed or stationed overseas. Couples that include a military service member have a higher overall divorce rate than the civilian population, as the added stress of the military lifestyle makes overcoming marital problems more difficult.

Are you an active-duty service member, or does your spouse serve in the military? If so, and if you are considering divorce, hiring a lawyer with specific experience handling military divorces is crucial to help you through this complex process.

Jurisdiction and Residency Requirements

One of the first decisions you’ll need to make when filing for divorce is where to file. Military divorce laws offer service members and their spouses three options:

  • The state where the service member is currently stationed
  • The state where the service member claims legal residency
  • The state where the non-military spouse resides

While the standard six-month state and 90-day county residency requirements apply, Texas law provides active-duty military personnel and their spouses additional flexibility in meeting those requirements compared to civilian couples. The military-specific provisions account for their mobile lifestyle and allow filing in Texas even when temporarily stationed or deployed elsewhere.

Military Divorce Laws and Regulations

Two important laws to be aware of when going through a military divorce are the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) and the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act (USFSPA). The SCRA allows active-duty service members to request a stay or postponement of divorce proceedings if their military service prevents them from responding or appearing in court. This protection ensures that service members’ military obligations do not compromise their rights.

State courts have the authority to treat military disposable retired pay as marital property under the USFPA. However, the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) will limit a former spouse’s payments to less than 50% of the member’s disposable retired pay.

Military Benefits for Former Spouses

Former spouses of service members may be entitled to keep certain military benefits if they meet the 20/20/20 rule. This means the marriage lasted at least 20 years, the service member served for at least 20 years, and there was a 20-year overlap between the member’s service and the marriage. Benefits might include medical care, commissary, and exchange privileges.

Additionally, each military branch has policies requiring service members to support family members after separation without a court order, if only temporarily. However, seeking court-ordered support is always recommended.

Importance of Filing in a U.S. State Court

While it may be tempting to file for divorce overseas, filing in a U.S. state court is generally advisable. The U.S. might not recognize a foreign divorce, and significant risks can be associated with filing abroad. Our attorneys can counsel you on the most appropriate jurisdiction for your case.

How Long Will a Military Divorce Take?

Filing for Divorce in the MilitaryWhile an uncontested military divorce could potentially be completed in as little as two or three months, most take closer to a year or longer when factoring in deployment, residency issues, the SCRA, and the overall complexity of untangling military benefits and pensions during the divorce settlement process.

Take the First Step Today and Contact a Katy Military Divorce Lawyer

At Adams Law Firm, we understand the unique obstacles service members and their spouses face when seeking to end their marriage. With over 35 years of experience in family law and specific experience handling military divorces, our dedicated Katy divorce attorneys are ready to help you work toward a resolution that sets you on the path to a brighter future.

If you or your spouse is a member of the military and considering divorce, contact us online or call us today at (281) 391-9237 to schedule a consultation.

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