Divorce in Military Families – What You Need To Know & How It’s Different

Any way you look at it, divorce can be difficult. It’s essential to deal with both emotional and legal issues at the same time. Military personnel may face a difficult and expensive divorce process. By knowing what to look out for, you can alleviate some of the stress, time, and cost.

Military divorce process

Start by contacting your local Legal Assistance Office. Whether you’re a US citizen or a citizen of another country, you’ll be able to receive free legal assistance.

What can your local Legal Aid Office do for you?

However, depending on where you file and what laws and regulations apply in your state, some federal statutes and military regulations might also apply. An installation Legal Assistance Office provides free legal advice and information to active duty military personnel on a wide range of topics, including:

  • Separation of parents, as well as an equitable distribution of parental duties.
  • Tax-related considerations.
  • The Military Personnel Civil Relief Act is expected to be signed into law.

In addition, eligible family members are entitled to legal aid. On the other hand, an attorney can only advise the service member or his or her spouse to avoid conflicts of interest. Depending on the branch of the military, the other spouse can see a different lawyer at the same location or a different location.

In the absence of legal representation, legal assistance attorneys can only provide clients with general information and advice. An important distinction has to be made in this regard:

Legal protections for military personnel

The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act protects military personnel’s legal rights while they are on active duty. When a spouse is served with divorce papers, there is usually a period of time before the other response. When it comes to SCRA:

  • It is possible for military personnel to be granted an extension of time in court or administrative proceedings because of their military obligations.
  • If a service member fails to appear or respond to a lawsuit, a default judgment may not be entered against them.
  • If you’re going through a divorce, military legal assistance attorneys can help you understand the consequences, and they’ll keep your conversation private. A civilian lawyer referral service outside of the government may also be able to help.

Rights of divorced military spouses

If you’re going through a divorce or legal separation and there are civil court issues such as child custody, spousal/child support, or asset division, you should consult a civilian attorney.

Armed Forces of the United States Benefits for ex-military spouses are available under the Federal Spouse Protection Act, which was passed in 2008. It is possible for former spouses who haven’t remarried to be granted access to the MWR program’s medical, food and movie theatre benefits under the so-called 20/20/20 rule:

  • At the time of the divorce, dissolution, or annulment, the ex-spouse had been married for at least 20 years to the military member.
  • A military member must have served at least 20 years in order to receive retired pay (the member does not have to be retired from active duty). In order to be on the safe side, it’s a good idea to use this service to find out if someone is in the military.
  • Former spouses must have been married for at least 20 years during their retirement-eligible service period to be eligible for benefits.

Divorce laws in other countries

Divorce decrees issued outside of the United States may not be recognized by courts in the United States. Because of this, it’s usually best to file in the US.

It is legal for military personnel and their spouses to file for a divorce in any state in which the service member is stationed, claims legal residency, or lives.

There are a few considerations to bear in mind when divorcing while abroad:

  • The best course of action if you own property in another country is to consult a civilian lawyer or someone from a Military Legal Assistance Office (LAO).
  • Government assistance in bringing home family members and their property before military service ends.


Divorcing service members and their spouses should familiarise themselves with military divorce legal issues. Military divorce is distinct from divorce in the civilian world because of the specific legal issues that arise. Help is on the way! Some private attorneys focus their practice on these areas of law.

Legal assistance lawyers on military bases may be able to help if you’re going through a divorce.

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