Military life can be tough on marriage, especially when couples are separated for long periods of time. If you decide to file for a divorce, the process will be much like any other divorce except for a few issues that apply only to military families. Your legal assistance office can give you some information but won't be able to represent you in court.
Where to File for Divorce
Each state has its own residency laws that spell out how long you must live in the state before you can file for divorce. Some states, including Texas, allow active duty military members stationed there to file for divorce even if they don't intend to reside in the state. As long as they've been in Texas for at least six months and in the county at least 90 days, the court can hear the case. Colorado, on the other hand, does not allow military members to file for divorce there unless they plan to make Colorado their permanent home or unless their civilian spouse has lived in Colorado for at least 90 days.
Divorce While Deployed
If you are served with divorce papers while you are deployed overseas, you can ask the judge for an additional 90 days or more to respond. Under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), if you are unable to defend your case because of military service, the judge may postpone the case until you return to the United States. If you would rather let the divorce go forward without delay, consider hiring a lawyer to protect your rights.
Custody and Visitation
Parenting after divorce can be difficult, especially if you are on active duty. If possible, try to reach an agreement with your spouse about custody and visitation that allows the children to spend time with each of you. Many states allow extra visitation after a deployment. If you are both on active duty and deployed at the same time, you will have to make arrangements for a relative to care for the children.
Military Financial Issues
Some states consider both parents' incomes when calculating child support, while others, such as Texas, consider only the paying parent's income. Military retirement pay is also divided according to state law. Under the Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act (USFSPA), some former spouses can continue to use the commissary, exchange, and military medical facilities. Under the 20/20/20 rule, which grants these benefits to a former spouse, the marriage and active duty service must both have lasted at least 20 years with a 20-year overlap between the two before the divorce.
A Divorce Lawyer Can Help
The law surrounding divorce when one spouse or both spouses is in the military is complicated. Plus, the facts of each case are unique. This article provides a brief, general introduction to the topic. For more detailed, specific information, please contact a divorce lawyer.