By Buddy Blouin
You’ve tried to ignore it, but the signs are still there. Your internet history contains “military divorce lawyers near me,” and no matter what you’ve done, it feels inevitable. A military divorce is a painful process for any couple and for their families, as there are often unique, complex issues to deal with. This includes finding a military divorce lawyer that specializes in your needs, hurdling complex travel arrangements, and determining military benefits in the aftermath. Getting divorced in the military can be a daunting process. Here’s our guide to help get you through it.

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How To File for Divorce in the Military

Military members have the highest divorce rate of any profession in the United States. This unfortunate statistic shouldn’t be too surprising, however, as service to one’s country comes with added levels of stress for those enlisted, as well as their family members. The divorce rate in the military is 4.54% for women and 2.9% for men. If you’ve tried it all but have come to the conclusion of a breakup, here are your options for getting a divorce in the military:
  • You can file for divorce when you were last a resident for at least 6 months.
  • A filing can also be done wherever you pay taxes.
  • If you're stationed in a state that you're not a resident of, it’s advised that you file in that state regardless of your residency.
Managing the divorce process for military members will come with special rules and unique issues to navigate. But divorce in the military community can be accomplished with the right legal team.

Military Spouse Benefits After Divorce

Divorces in the military are riddled with complex issues and challenges not seen within the civilian world. The benefits after a military divorce are often a vocal point of complexity and struggle. It’s important to consider how divorce impacts your military benefits.
  • Restrictions apply to how the military benefits of a Veteran are divided after a divorce, which will depend on many different factors, including the conditions of the benefits.
    • Benefits that are considered shared marital property will be divided. A common example of shared property is the benefits from a military pension.
    • Shared property is the property that was gained during your marriage; gifts and inheritances in a single spouse’s name are exempt.
    • Marital property that is not considered separate property will be split at the divorce.
    • Combat-Related Special Compensation (CRSC) and Veteran Administration Disability Compensation are common examples of separate property because they aren’t retirement benefits.
  • The distribution of pensions is subject to Federal restrictions in all 50 states. The pension will be locked during your separation, divorce, or annulment date.
    • This prevents ex-spouses from receiving larger-than-normal pension sums that can occur in the event that the enlisted member was to receive better benefits due to a promotion within their ranks.
  • The 20/20/20 rule can also come into play when you’re considering benefits involving the military and divorce.
    • Ex-spouses are eligible for the same benefits as the spouse in the military if they've been married for 20 years, the military spouse served 20 years, and the marriage of 20 years overlaps with the 20 years of service.
    • If the ex-spouse meets this criterion, they'll be able to receive the same benefits for life. They'll also be able to retain their military ID cards as long as they don’t remarry. TRICARE, however, will require re-registration.
  • There's also the 10/10 rule, which applies when the marriage was 10 years long with someone serving in the military for at least 10 years during the relationship.
  • The former spouse will be able to receive pension payments from the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS), but the verbiage in the paperwork is critical. A military divorce attorney will need to assess the situation.
Additional situations may arise under the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act (USFSPA). Other situations may involve navigating Survivor Benefits Plan (SBP) Elections. Again, these are complex and should be reviewed with a lawyer.

Surviving the Process of a Military Divorce

Knowing how to divorce your husband in the military or wife is only part of the battle. Going through with the process is another. No matter how you slice it, in most cases, the process is stressful, can be messy, and is obviously emotional in many facets. Legal experts that are trained to handle these complex situations, and having a support system of friends and family will be key. If a community of your own is not available, there are many resources available through the VA and non-profit organizations aimed at helping your mental health and your families. A military divorce can be one of the toughest battles you face. It’s best to stay prepared and avoid going into it alone.

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