Consequences of a military divorce

Written by kimberly turtenwald
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Consequences of a military divorce
The distance a military life often requires can put a strain on a marriage, leading to divorce. (Pixland/Pixland/Getty Images)

The divorce rate in this country hovers right around 50 per cent of all marriages. However, the divorce rate among military couples is higher, fed by separations when the spouse is deployed. A divorce that involves one person in the military can be more complicated than the average divorce and has some disadvantages that are specific to this situation.

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Serving the divorce papers is an important step in the process. The service of the papers can be further complicated if your spouse is deployed at the time you file the papers. Divorce papers cannot legally be served when a member of the military is out on deployment, so you will have to wait until he returns to serve the papers. This leads to a drawn-out process that makes the divorce take longer. However, this prevents non-service members from getting a default divorce without the service member present.

Process Delays

Even if you are able to serve the papers on a military service member, he may be deployed at some point during the divorce process. If the service member is unable to attend a court hearing, that hearing is postponed until he is able to attend. In civilian courts, if a person does not appear at a hearing, the person who does attend gets what she wants. However, since the military is serving the country and deployment is out of the control of service members, this rule protects the rights of the service member.


In a typical divorce, custody and visitation is easily figured out because the parents usually live close to each other. However, in a military divorce, deployments and base transfers can affect the distance between a parent and her children. Since the military parent may be moving around, the non-military parent is more likely to be awarded custody of the children, with the military parent having visitation. If the non-custodial parent is living far away from the custodial parent and child, she may be required to visit the child at his home or pay for the transportation if the child is older. However, it is not uncommon for a parent in the military to have custody as well.

Disability Payments

In a divorce case involving a military service member, child support is ordered just the same as any other case. However, if the service member is retired and is getting all of his income from the Veteran's Administration disability fund, he does not have any income that can be used to figure child support. He can make the payments himself, but if he does not, the custodial parent has no recourse. The VA disability money cannot be garnished for any reason.


Civilian lawyers are well-versed in family law, in order to help people through a typical divorce. However, a military divorce has a larger number of rules and regulations that are specific to the military. If one party is in the military, both parties will need to hire lawyers who are familiar with the workings of the military. If you do not hire a lawyer that knows how a military divorce works, you run the risk of missing out on some of the additional benefits you qualify for or of making a costly mistake somewhere in the process.

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