A Military Divorce is used to describe a divorce in which one spouse at least is serving in the military or is a retired service member. By and large it is more a description which signifies that this is a divorce involving a service member and carries no special legal sanction.

Common Difficulties

Military divorces proceed along the same lines as a civilian divorce and like a civilian divorce generally go through the appropriate court of law. Military authorities invariably keep out of a civilian court’s decisions and never attempt to influence or interfere with them. The military might however ask for special adjustments for its service members.

A classic example is a request for relaxation of residency requirements to enable a serviceman to file for divorce in the place where he/she is stationed rather than the permanent address of the couple or the place where the spouse lives. Sometimes too it becomes difficult to serve notices and other legal documents to a military person on duty overseas. If the person is serving overseas the acceptance of legal documents might not be required or indeed possible.

Key Similarities

Military couples must be conversant with the Uniform Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act (USFSPA). Under USFSPA military personnel are subject to state statutes on issues like spousal support, child support, and military retirement pay and pension. While states view retirement and pension plans as a marital asset, under USFSPA states are at liberty to treat retired military pay as property rather than income.

A Decade

The Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) is the department which handles direct retirement payments. For the DFAS to make direct retirement payment to an ex-spouse the condition is that the couple should have been married for at least 10 years during which the military member should have been in military service.

With that said, this verifies that someone in the military must honor their personal responsibilities. If this becomes a major issue, this can affect a military member’s service record if these trying times affect their work and productivity. If you think that just because you are in the military that that invisible wall will keep this stuff from penetrating that wall then you are mistaken.

However if a couple does not qualify for DFAS direct pay this does not suggest that the spouse is not eligible to even a part of the payment. To receive a part of the payment the award would have to be included in the settlement agreement. An award of retired military pay is separate from, and in addition to alimony or maintenance, and child support.


The DFAS will not pay more than 50% of military retirement pay to an ex-spouse. If child support is deducted and paid from pension then the maximum combined amount deductible will not exceed 65% of disposable retirement pay.

If you are contemplating a military divorce you should hire a divorce attorney conversant with military divorce laws. A number of misconceptions revolve around a military divorce particularly with regard to alimony. An experienced divorce attorney will set your mind at rest on the various issues and be able to navigate the voluminous amount of paperwork involved.

Knowing the Law

CJ Lee and Associates is a family law firm with special expertise in divorce and related issues in both civilian and military divorce. The attorneys at this firm are totally conversant with military divorce rules and procedures and how they mesh with state divorce laws.