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Bizarre Facts About Military Divorces

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Filing for divorce is a complicated process in the civilian world, but things get even more quirky when one of the spouses is in the military and they are going through a contested divorce. Most of the armed forces’ laws are far stricter than civilian law and involve the consultation of Federal law as well.

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Bizarre Facts About Military Divorces

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No Getting Away With Infidelity

  • While judges may give civilians a slap on the wrist for cheating on their spouse, the same can’t be said for troops.
  • Adultery in the armed forces falls under Article 134, which prohibits actions that could bring discredit to the military.
  • Adultery is not specifically prohibited in military law, but:
    • With proof, someone who is accused of cheating could be punished for committing a sexual act with someone outside a military marriage depending on the circumstances of the situation.
    • If the adultery disturbs the work environment or makes the military look bad, there could be an issue.
  • Repercussions can include being discharged from the military.

Where to Divorce?

  • Relocated military may find issues if filing for divorce.
  • Some states, or territories, such as Puerto Rico, will not divide a military pension.
  • Where a spouse files will depend on which state(s) they have lived in.
  • In various states there can be a "no-fault" restriction.
    • This could prevent a spouse from requesting monetary compensation.
  • In Virginia, deployment may be counted as a legal separation, and the spouses don’t even have to deal with court documentation of the separation.
  • For those wishing to divorce in North Carolina, couples usually need to be legally separated for one year before the divorce.

Once a Military Spouse...

  • Military spouses often receive benefits even after divorce. However, this is dependent on the military courts.
  • The Uniformed Services Former Spousal Protection Act (USFSPA) allows states to treat military retirement pension as marital property so that it can be divided in a divorce.
  • Up to 50% of the retirement pay can go to the divorced spouse, but this varies from state to state.
  • A former military spouse is eligible for full medical, commissary, and also exchange benefits if:
    • The military service member served at least 20 years.
    • The marriage lasted for at least 20 years
    • The armed forces member and their spouse were married for 20 years over the course of the actual service time.

Putting Things Off

  • What do you do if you’re in an active war zone when your spouse files for divorce?
  • In some states a civilian spouse can initiate divorce proceedings while his or her spouse is in a war zone on active duty, though it won’t be finalized without a signed waiver.
  • The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act states that no court can enter any civil ruling against a deployed service member for at least 90 days after the suit is filed.

While Military divorces aren’t necessarily easy to understand, a lawyer can help sort things out. Look for a lawyer who has experience with military divorces, as they can help the process along using their knowledge of applicable law.