From 2001 until 2011, the divorce rate rose from 2.6 percent to 3.7 percent for military couples, according to the Defense Department. The military enforces special regulations for divorces in order to protect both enlisted individuals and their spouses. These cover a gamut of issues, including processing the divorce, residency matters, compliance, custody and the division of pensions. In part one of this extended series, we’ll overview the military divorce process. Part two will address how children are affected by military divorces, and part three will cover pensions and spousal support.

Divorce Jurisdiction

Active duty personnel are immune from divorce proceedings, so that they can focus on their service to the U.S. When a military couple divorces, either party can usually file wherever they are stationed, even if neither individual is a resident of that state. In addition, they have other options as well, including filing in the state where either spouse claims legal residency.

Once the spouse files, then he or she will need to follow the laws of that state regarding the divorce, division of property and child custody and support. For clarification, contact the legal aid office at your local military base. Be advised that the JAG office can only provide general advice and cannot prepare divorce paperwork, represent clients or file the legal documents in court. Indeed, a military attorney does not need to be licensed in the state, so he or she might not know local laws. Thus, the person who files for divorce should also contact a qualified local family law attorney.

Military Identification Cards

The military member does not have the right to confiscate his or her spouse’s ID card, since those cards are granted by Congress and not by the military person. If the spouse does confiscate the card, he or she can face larceny charges. Even when the spouse refuses to sign a card, the Personnel Office can still issue one. However, the nonmilitary spouse will likely lose the card upon divorce, except if the spouse served for at least 20 years and if the couple was also married for at least 20 years. The ID card qualifies the spouse for medical, theater, commissary and other benefits. If the former spouse remarries, he or she will lose those benefits.

Understanding the Nuances of a Military Divorce

In addition to state laws, military personnel need to adhere to specific federal regulations when it comes to divorce. Our experienced legal team knows how to navigate the complex issues related to military separations. Call us for a no-obligation consultation at 763-323-6555.