Military families often have to comply with special rules that don't apply to civilians, and the same is true when it comes to getting a divorce. Though the process of divorcing is relatively the same, there are a couple of differences that must be taken into account if you want to successfully separate from your spouse.

Establishing Residency

All states require people to establish residency before they can file for divorce. For instance, you must have lived in the state for at least 90 days before you can file for divorce in Illinois. This is to establish jurisdiction for the legal proceedings. If the court doesn't have jurisdiction to make decisions in the case, then the divorce may not be considered valid by other states.

Since military families move frequently and/or the military spouse may be stationed overseas, there are special rules that govern where the divorce can be filed. To establish jurisdiction, the divorce petition must be filed in the state where:

  • The military spouse has residency, or
  • The military spouse is domiciled, or
  • You and your spouse have mutually agreed to divorce

The military spouse's domicile isn't necessarily where the individual is currently a resident and vice versa. For the purpose of establishing jurisdiction, a person's domicile is defined as the place where the individual intends to return to and live permanently after his or her military service ends. The person's residency, on the other hand, is defined as the state where the individual is currently residing.

If, for some reason, you and your spouse are unable to establish where the person's domicile or residency is located, the two of you can choose a state to get divorced. Be aware, though, that your divorce will be subjected to that state's laws, so choose wisely.

Child Support And Child Custody

The military requires service members to comply with custody and child support agreements and will punish the person—up to and including discharging the individual from the military—if he or she fails to do so. In this way, ex-spouses of military personnel are lucky because service members have some of the highest compliance rates for this reason.

The drawback, however, is that child support and custody is a little more complex. First, military paychecks are not like civilian paychecks because the service member's income consists of a base pay, bonuses, special pay for specific skills or deployments, and allowances (e.g. food, housing). The income the person puts on his or her tax return may not be accurate because some of the money the individual gets is not taxed. Therefore, you'll have to do some research to accurately calculate income so you can obtain the correct amount of child support or ensure that you are paying enough in child support.

Child custody is typically handled by the civilian court. However, if one or both parents may potentially be deployed, the military requires those parents to submit a family care plan that details what will happen to the children if they are deployed or must be absent for long periods of time. Additionally, if the primary child care provider has been deployed or mobilized, the law gives the person the right to reassign his or her custodial or parental duties to another person (typically a close family member). For instance, the person's parents could be allowed step in as the kid's temporary guardians and fulfill the parent's role while he or she is away.

Divorcing from a military spouse can be a bit more complicated and challenging than separating from a civilian one. It's essential that you obtain the assistance of a divorce lawyer like Ward & Ketchersid PA who can help protect your rights while sorting the situation out.