Southern California (and the San Diego area in particular) is home to a significant number of military bases and installations. Because of this, there are a range of private and public resources catering to the unique needs of military families – including family law services.
Nearly everyone is new to the divorce process when they make the difficult decision to end their marriage. If you are a servicemember or military spouse currently facing this reality, you may have heard the term “military divorce” and want to know more about what it means. That’s what we’ll cover in this post.
Same legal process with special considerations
Legally speaking, “military divorce” is not a distinct category or process. Military families go through the same civil courts as civilians do. But servicemembers and their spouses often face unique logistical challenges in their divorce proceedings, which is why it is a good idea to work with a family law attorney who has experience representing clients connected to the military.
Here are some of the ways that military divorces differ from divorces among civilians:
Uncertainty about residency: Military families are relocated constantly, which can slow down the divorce process. California generally requires residency (of at least one spouse) for a minimum of six months prior to filing for divorce. Three of those months must be in the county where you will file. Residency requirements can sometimes be relaxed for military families, but you should consult with an attorney to learn if this is an option.
Property and asset division: The military has its own approach to pay, benefits and pensions, as well as programs like the Survivor’s Benefit Plan. These can be addressed and divided fairly in divorce, but the details are a bit complicated. Again, it is best to work with an attorney who understands the unique features of this system.
Child custody and court appearances: Both child custody and court appearances (during the divorce process) can be greatly impacted by servicemember deployment. But serving one’s country should not be a reason for losing child custody or having to delay divorce proceedings indefinitely. Deployment creates logistical challenges for court appearances, but these can often be addressed using modern communications technology and careful planning. In cases where couples will share child custody, the parenting agreement can build in flexibility around sudden deployment and other issues that are likely to disrupt a regular schedule.
Military divorce is easier when working with the right attorney
Any family law attorney could technically represent you in a military divorce. But the bottom line is that hiring an attorney with specific knowledge and experience in this area is a wise idea that could save you time, money and headaches.