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How is a military divorce different?

Military families are often shaped and challenged by the many sacrifices they are asked to make as a result of a loved one’s service. Many military servicemembers and their spouses and children are forced to relocate multiple times during the course of a servicemember's military career. Additionally, in recent years, thousands of military marriages have been tested by long deployments to active war zones. For these reasons and numerous others, many military marriages end in divorce.

When an individual who is or has served in the U.S. military divorces, there are special legal rules and procedures that dictate the time and course of divorce proceedings, child custody determinations and the distribution of military retirement assets.

In cases where a non-military spouse files for divorce, under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, an active or deployed servicemember can request a stay of proceedings for 90 or more days. Judicial exceptions afforded to active servicemembers under SCRA are intended to allow an individual time to focus on their current military assignment.

When a military divorce does proceed, issues related to the division of military retirement and pension accounts must be addressed. Much like individuals in civilian jobs have a 401 (k) retirement plan; individuals in the military have what's known as a Thrift Savings Plan. Assets in a TSP are divided much the same as assets in a 401 (k) retirement plan. Additionally a non-military spouse may be able to receive a portion of a servicemember's pension. Because matters related to divorces involving a military servicemember are unique and often complex, it's wise to consult with an attorney who handles military divorces.

Stateside Legal, "Divorce In Military Families – How It’s Different & What You Need To Know," 2014