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Military divorce can be complex

While divorce for civilians can be a complicated process, it is even more so for those in the military. If one or both spouses are in the military, then there are likely to be some issues that arise, including the place where the divorce will be filed, the way in which support is calculated, decisions concerning custody and visitation and benefits, including pension rights. In each of these areas, military members have specific rights and obligations that differ from those of civilians.

With respect to where the military divorce should be filed, the court that allows the divorce is required to have jurisdiction over both spouses. In the majority of situations, the spouse must file the divorce in a state in which the military spouse is domiciled or resides, or in a state in which both spouses agree to divorce.

As in the case of civilians, military spouses have a legal obligation to support their children. The Department of Defense mandates that those in the military adhere to orders regarding support, custody and visitation. If a service member fails to pay child support, that member could face stringent sanctions, such as removal from military service. This could explain why rates of compliance with support are considerably greater among those in the military than civilians.

Although each state has control over child and spousal support, there are issues that are specific to military spouses, such as calculation of support amounts, carrying out support orders during a time of deployment and changing support agreements. Custody and visitation for military personnel can be further complicated by recurrent moves and the unpredictability of future deployment.

The military functions under a different set of rules than the private sector, and it offers several employment benefits, such as medical, pension and life insurance. Each of these benefits can be divided in your divorce pursuant to the law of the state that is granting the divorce. You should not enter into negotiations concerning your divorce or sign a settlement agreement without initially consulting an attorney who is versed in military divorce.

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