The Ex-Games, Military Style -- Why You Need A Lawyer To Help You With Your Divorce If You're In The Military

Military life can put a strain on a lot of marriages. Moving from city to city and sometimes from country to country can be very stressful on relationships. Deployments can also fracture even strong marriages. Unfortunately, as many military families have discovered, absence doesn't always make the heart grow fonder. So what should you do if your significant other has decided that you and the military life is no longer right for them, and they are now demanding a divorce?

Hire a Lawyer

While you may be tempted to try and represent yourself to save a few dollars, you could end up losing a lot more money in the long run. For example, you could mishandle:

  • The splitting of your retirement payments, which could mean that you could end up giving your spouse more than their fair share
  • The Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP). This is a benefit for your spouse that your lawyer could potentially use as a bargaining chip during your divorce proceedings

Military Pension

You may have heard through the grapevine that your soon-to-be ex-spouse is due half of your military retirements. In reality, they are only entitled to that much if you were married during ten years or more of your military career. For example, if you were married for 15 years, but only five of those were during your military career, your spouse would only be entitled to a portion of your direct retirement payments, not 50 percent.  That is why it's important to hire a lawyer who understands military divorces to represent your interests during the proceedings.  


If your ex-spouse is awarded your SBP during the divorce proceedings, they will be paid 55 percent of the base amount of your pension for the rest of their life upon your death. This benefit does not automatically go to an ex-spouse, so if your ex wants this, they must make this request during the divorce proceedings. You must also inform the Defense Finance and Accounting Services (DFAS) within one year of the date of your divorce if your spouse is awarded your SBP in the settlement. It is also possible that your spouse may decide that they would rather have something else, such as the marital residence, and give up this benefit during your divorce proceedings.

Determine Where You Want to Get Divorced

If you are like many others in the military, you have probably moved around numerous times during your career. This can cause confusion when it comes time to file for a divorce. For example, if you were married in one state, but have lived in several states during your marriage, you could possibly file in any of them. Unfortunately, choosing the wrong state to file your divorce could end up costing you or your spouse substantially in time and/or money. For example:  

  • Courts in Puerto Rico will not divide a military pension between a service member and their spouse.
  • Some states offer no-fault divorce, which means that the proceedings can move along quickly.
  • In California, child support payments may be ten times what they might be in another state, such as Georgia.  

To determine where to file for divorce, you will need to pick a state where you:

  • File for state taxes
  • Are registered to vote
  • Own property that you pay real estate taxes on
  • Hold a driver's license

You will also want to choose a state that will be convenient for both parties as you will have to meet with your lawyers, file necessary legal documents and, possibly, even have to take part in a hearing before finalizing your divorce.

Because of the complex nature of military divorces, it is even more important that you have an experienced attorney working on your side. Otherwise, you could end up on the losing end of your divorce settlement. 

For more information, contact a firm like the Law office of Kristine A. Michael, P.C.