If you’re in the military or divorcing someone who is, it’s important to understand your rights and how to proceed. Military divorces are unique, because there are specific rules that apply to this divorce that may not apply to a civilian divorce.
In a military divorce, military spouses may be entitled to certain benefits if they have been married long enough. For example, under the Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act, people who used to be married to military members and who were married for at least 20 years while their spouse was in the service and whose spouse served for at least 20 years in the military may be entitled to medical, exchange, commissary and theater privileges despite divorcing. This is known as the 20/20/20 rule and is something our attorney should be well-educated in before you decide to work with them. If they don’t understand this well, then your case could suffer.
Does the military handle divorces differently than civilian divorces?
For the most part, no. On the whole, the military sees divorce as a civilian matter. However, if your spouse is deployed when you file for divorce or if there are other interruptions in the case, then the court may grant more time for them to return or respond to certain actions.
Service members have their rights protected under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. Under the SCRA, the court proceedings may be extended if the servicemember can’t attend because they are on duty. They may also be protected against default judgments that are a result of failing to respond to the lawsuit or because of being unable to appear at trial. There are limitations to these benefits, so that’s also something to discuss with your attorney if you’re divorcing your spouse in the military or are being divorced while serving.
Your attorney should be able to walk you through different scenarios to let you know what would be in your best interests. It’s worth taking the time to get more legal support, so that you can be clear on what to expect once you are divorced from your spouse and how your decisions could affect you in the future.