For the most part, military divorces are quite similar to civilian divorces. Contrary to urban legends, military law does not govern what happens during a divorce involving a military servicemember and a civilian or two married servicemembers. Instead, the state statutes in the jurisdiction where someone files for divorce determine what happens with personal property, child custody and financial support.
Still, there are certain elements of military divorces that are different than civilian divorces. For example, the three concerns below frequently complicate military divorces and require special consideration from those preparing for the end of a marriage.
Notifying one’s chain of command
Typically, people divorcing in the civilian world do not need to automatically inform their employers unless there need to be changes made to someone’s benefits. However, those serving in the military typically need to notify the chain of command about the change to their marital circumstances. Not only can the military make adjustments to their compensation but they will also need to file special paperwork. The family care plan that helps provide support during deployments will need to reflect the new family circumstances.
Divorce can affect pay and benefits
The compensation that servicemembers receive depends on a variety of factors. The size of their households is one of those considerations. When someone divorces, that may affect what cost-of-living and housing benefits they receive. Particularly when one spouse is a civilian, a divorce might mean that they lose health benefits or possibly housing benefits that have been crucial to maintaining their lifestyle so far.
Relocation can affect custody
Military servicemembers usually do not have control over where they live and work. They follow orders that come down the chain of command. Sometimes, those orders will require deployment to an international location or a relocation to a base in another state. Those with children preparing for a military divorce need to consider those possibilities in their custody arrangements. They may need to have separate terms for sharing custody when a parent is nearby and after their relocation or deployment. They may also need to include special terms allowing for virtual visitation when one parent is far away from the children.
Military divorces can be more complex than civilian divorces and may necessitate legal support for both spouses. Receiving proper guidance and advocacy during a military divorce can help someone obtain the best possible outcome given their current circumstances.