Being in the military can change many circumstances. One of the most important changes is how divorce functions. Military divorce carries a unique set of circumstances, rules, and procedures that can make it a more complex process than a civilian divorce.
A military divorce is any legal separation between spouses where at least one person is in the military. In many ways, these proceedings are the same as a normal divorce with some notable exceptions. One of the most notable ways that military divorces are different from normal divorces is how the petition for divorce may be filed.
Typically, in a divorce, there are residency requirements that must be met in order to file for divorce. However, in a military divorce, the petition for divorce may either be filed in the state that the military spouse is stationed in or in the state where they have permanent residence. This allows the military spouse to choose which venue is most ideal for their proceedings.
One of the key things that a military divorce settles apart from the traditional divorce topics of child custody, division of property, or spousal support, is the topic of the military spouse’s pension. Under the Uniformed Services Former Spouses' Protection Act, the military spouse’s pension can be treated as income or as an asset. This is relevant because as an income it can be divided between the separating spouses but if it’s an asset then it can be wholly claimed by one spouse or another. The division or protection of the military spouse’s pension is a unique entitlement negotiated by military divorces.
As with many divorces, the length of time that a military divorce takes depends on how contentious the issues of the separation are. If there are no children involved and both spouses agree on the division of property and assets, then the divorce may only take a few months to finalize.
However, if there are children or disputes over property, assets, or the military spouse’s pension, then the divorce process may take several months or even years to resolve. Child custody disputes alone can take months to resolve with another few weeks taken in order to settle child support disputes.
When a military divorce can be filed depends on the status of a military spouse. Under military law, a divorce cannot be filed while the spouse is on active duty. Additionally, there is a 90-day grace period after the spouse’s active service ends during which a divorce petition cannot be filed. However, if the military spouse is not on active duty and has not been on active duty in the last 90 days, then a military divorce should be able to be filed.