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How is military divorce different from a civilian divorce?

Although couples across the nation try their hardest to avoid divorce when a marriage goes sour, sometimes it is a necessary evil in order to free yourself from something that is making you so unhappy. But just like with any divorce, sometimes the process goes smoothly and sometimes it does not. This can happen a lot with military divorce as well because couples have to not only navigate state laws but federal laws as well.

Some of our readers here in Alaska might be wondering: what’s the difference between a military divorce and a civilian divorce? And while there are far too many to describe in this post, we did want to take some time this week to point out three major differences that we felt our readers could most benefit from in the event that they find themselves encountering a military divorce down the road.

The first major difference is the fact that military service members generally have three choices when it comes to filing a divorce. They can choose to file in the state where the spouse resides, the state where the military member is stationed, or in the state where the military member claims legal residency. This can give couples a lot of flexibility when it comes to filing for a divorce, especially in instances where a spouse resides in one state and the military spouse is stationed in another state.

The next major difference is in regards to military benefits and pensions. Unlike some civilian retirement benefits, the government has restrictions on whether a spouse receives these benefits in the event of a divorce. Some restrictions include the length of marriage and whether that marriage overlapped with military service. A spouse may also qualify for medical coverage as well based on these same restrictions, though it’s important to point out that the military does have special rules concerning child and medical coverage.

The third and final difference that we wanted to point out has to do with when legal proceedings can move forward in a divorce. Because of the Service Members Civil Relief Act, divorce proceedings can be postponed if a service member is on active duty and can continue to be postponed for up to 60 days following active duty. While this might be a relief for some couples, it may create contentions for others.

Source: FindLaw.com, "Military Divorce"

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