Military and divorce

Military divorce, is defined as a divorce where one of the parties (the “service member”) is active duty military, reserve or guard, or retired military. This is not a “legal” term that is recognized within the context of the law, but a lay term used to describe a divorce where one of the parties is a service member (regardless of the member’s status).Being a service couple does not exempt the parties from the same requirements that civilian couples must meet when filing for divorce. However, there are some states that have relaxed the residency requirements for active duty service personnel who want to file for divorce in the state in which they are stationed.

Military couples will also go through the same procedural process when divorcing. But they must also be aware that there are other factors that the typical civilian couple will not have to address, and which may prolong the process because of the very nature of one of the party’s military service, such as an active duty assignment in a remote area, or a permanent station overseas.Besides understanding the basic divorce process, it is imperative that military couples are knowledgeable in the factors that will affect their divorce as a result of military service. In fact, it may be even more important to know about the federal law that divides military retired pay, as your attorney will be the expert on your state’s own laws about divorce.

The Federal Law that Awards Military Retired Pay: If you are a typical civilian couple who is divorcing, you must primarily be concerned with the laws of the state in which you are divorcing.

Uniformed Services Former Spouse’s Protection Act (USFSPA): The USFSPA applies to all active duty, reserve/guard, and retired military, the U.S. Coast Guard, and members of the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Myths that Have Caused Problems: Military couples have found themselves in financial trouble and drawn-out negotiations because of their misbeliefs regarding the USFSPA.

Examples of Problems You and Your Spouse Need to Address: While a similar group of questions (below) could be asked of any of the factors that are, involved in military divorces, the following will serve as one example that illustrates your need to know how your divorce will be affected by the USFSPA.

Factors that Affect Military Divorces: Just as in a civilian divorce, a military divorce will involve procedural requirements, property distribution, and perhaps child support or maintenance.

Federal Benefits and Financial Management to Consider in the Negotiation Process: Divorcing before the service member has attained 20 years of creditable service for retired pay purposes can be detrimental to the non-military spouse.

Controversies that Have Caused Court Appeals and Cost Money: There are numerous controversies, as analyzed from divorce court appeals, that have caused problems for military couples.

Hiring an Attorney: The most critical step you will take in your divorce, besides educating yourself about the USFSPA, will be your selection of an attorney. You would not go to a dentist to set your broken leg in a cast, would you?

What Attorneys Need to Know About Military Divorce: Any attorney knows that the lack of communication is one of the biggest complaints of clients. Add to it the lack of education (on the attorney’s or client’s part, or both) on the federal law that awards military retired pay, and you have the ingredients for not only angry clients, but also for other problems, not the least of which could be a malpractice suit.

What You Need to Do Right the First Time to Save Money: The majority of military people have very little information, or no idea, about the law that affects their retired pay in a divorce.

Take the Fisher Divorce Adjustment Scale at


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