Military divorces present special challenges

If you are in the midst of a divorce and you or your spouse is in the military, there are some unique aspects to your divorce settlement that non-military couples don't have.

Custody of minor children is usually foremost in parents' minds, along with money matters. Active duty service members often are unable to be the domiciliary parents of their children, especially if they are stationed half a world away.

Courts will frequently award primary custody to the non-military spouse, meaning that the service member may feel that his or her relationship with the kids will tank due to being apart even more.

The issue of money is a real hot button in some military divorces. The peripatetic nature of military life often results in the civilian spouse not working, or working in jobs where frequent moves are not problematic. Consequently, they may have few job skills that can support them after a divorce, necessitating a claim for spousal support to be made.

Civilian spouses will also no longer be eligible for military housing, which can be a real blow to someone on a tight budget.

The division of pensions and death benefits must also be considered. The different stages of the marriage the divorcing couples are in may affect their priorities, such as a young couple with children and a parent on deployment in a war zone may be more concerned about death benefits. Older empty-nesters may have a greater interest in making sure that they are getting a decent chunk of the service member's pension benefits.

Resources may be available through the military to help spouses manage their divorce and remain civil to one another. The family law attorneys for the two can also provide referrals to family counselors in many instances.

Source:, "Military Divorce: Dividing Children, Pay and Pensions," Rebekah Sanderlin, accessed Feb. 12, 2016

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