Ways your military divorce might differ from a civilian divorce

On Behalf of | Sep 19, 2018 | Firm News

Divorce is generally difficult for most couples due to the high level of emotions involved combined with the need to make life-altering decisions. For example, you and your spouse will have to decide if one of you will keep the house in Everett or sell it and divide the proceeds.

You will also have to make decisions regarding custody issues and dividing other marital assets. However, if you or your spouse are members of the military, you could face some different issues than those civilian couples must deal with.

While there are differences between civilian divorces and military divorces, one is typically no more, or less, complicated than the other. Here are a few things to consider if you are planning to divorce.

State and federal laws apply

While civilian couples are generally subject to the laws of their resident state in a divorce, military couples must abide by both state and federal laws during the process. For example, the state of Washington might dictate the terms of alimony, but federal laws will probably affect how the two of you divide the military pension.

Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA)

The SCRA provides some protections to active servicemembers in divorce proceedings. Under the Act, a servicemember on active duty cannot be subjected to a lawsuit or the beginning of divorce proceedings while active duty lasts, and for the first 60 days following the end of active duty.


In order for a court to grant a divorce to a servicemember or his or her spouse, it must establish jurisdiction over the case. Typically, where a person physically resides dictates jurisdiction, but in the case of servicemembers, jurisdiction might be where the individual has legal residence. In other words, if you are in the military and stationed in Texas but your legal residence is in Washington, then a Washington court could have jurisdiction over your divorce.

There are also other differences for military personnel, such as how the court decides on custody and spousal support and the rules governing military pensions. If you are considering divorce and one or both of you are members of the military, it is vital to understand the differences you could encounter versus a civilian divorce so that you can make decisions that are in your best interest.

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