What Is the Difference Between a Military Divorce and a Civilian Divorce?

Some aspects of a military divorce are significantly different from a civilian divorce. As a result, the divorce process can be a bit more complicated for military personnel. In order to negotiate the best possible settlement outcome, ensure that your legal rights are protected, and that all of your questions and concerns are addressed, it is recommended that you contact a divorce lawyer.

Military codes, state divorce laws, and federal statutes govern a military divorce. These laws and statutes will determine the distribution of military pay, retirement, health benefits, and certain property types. When filing for divorce as an active member of the military, several factors will impact the divorce process, as well as the outcome of your divorce, including the following:

  • Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA): This federal law protects service members from unexpected circumstances at home – including a divorce – so they can focus on their mission. The SCRA allows servicemembers to delay any legal proceedings that could have a negative impact on their relationships with their children. While this benefits servicemembers, the delay in divorce proceedings can be frustrating for non-military spouses who may want to finalize the divorce more quickly.
  • Pension benefits 10/10 rules: For the spouse of a military service member to qualify for a percentage of their spouse’s pension, the service member must have at least 10 years of credible service, and the couple must have been married for at least 10 years. In addition, the amount that the spouse is eligible to receive is capped at 50 percent. These are federally enforced restrictions.
  • Military pay: Military personnels’ salary is based on several factors, including their rank and the types of allowances they receive. The allowances usually make up most of a service member’s salary. Examples of allowances include basic housing allowance (BHA), basic subsistence allowance (BAS), combat pay, and cost of living adjustments. These are just a few allowances that will be included in the service member’s income when calculating child support and alimony. However, remember that federal law states that the child support or alimony award cannot exceed 50 to 65 percent of the service member’s disposal earnings. 
  • Health insurance: Military service members do not pay premium costs for their health insurance plan, called Tricare. You may be able to keep your military health care policy after a divorce if you meet certain eligibility requirements.
  • Child custody: Whether you are a military or a civilian couple, custody issues are often the most difficult to resolve. However, custody disputes involving military personnel can be particularly complicated. Ultimately, the court will seek a custody arrangement that is in the children’s best interest. 

How Do I Know Where to File for Divorce?

When a couple decides to seek a divorce, they will file in the county where they lived when separated. However, if you or your spouse is a military service member, your divorce can be filed in the state where the service member is currently stationed, the state where the spouse is currently residing, and the state where the service member claims residence. The courts generally understand if the service member cannot attend a court hearing because they are overseas on active duty.

Sometimes, the service member may participate in the hearing by phone. If the service member cannot participate in the court proceeding, the Servicemember Civil Relief Act is in place to allow the court to delay the proceedings until the service member can participate. During that time, the service member’s spouse may receive temporary support.

Our Morristown Divorce Lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C. Assist Clients Seeking a Military Divorce

If you and your spouse have decided to get a divorce and one of you is an active military service member, contact our Morristown divorce lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C. To schedule a free consultation, call 908-575-9777 or contact us online. Located in Somerville, Morristown, and Freehold, New Jersey, we serve clients in Somerset, Woodbridge, Morristown, Parsippany, Rockaway, Short Hills, Chatham, Randolph, Madison, Morris Plains, and Monmouth County.