Military families have to cope with a lot of stress. Active-duty service often means that one family member will experience prolonged periods of separation from the rest of the family. The entire family may have to move frequently from state to state or even to different countries depending on deployment or assignment to different bases.
Of course, the whole family also benefits from military employment. From Tricare benefits for health insurance to on-base housing, the family’s lifestyle reflects the military service of one of the parents. Just like daily life is different for military service members, divorce will be different too.
There are three significant ways that military divorces differ from civilian divorces.
Custody matters may be less certain
You never know when you will face deployment or need to transfer to a new base. The unpredictable nature of military work makes it hard for families to establish consistent custody arrangements.
You will likely need a parenting plan that is broad, rather than highly specific. You need to plan for everything from deployment and virtual visitation to the service member moving to another state while the rest of the family remains elsewhere.
You have to update the military about your marriage
Everything from a service member’s pay grade to family benefit arrangements will shift when you divorce. You will also need to update your Family Care Plan that discusses what happens with your children in the event of an appointment.
In cases where spouses have remained married for at least a decade, the Defense Finance and Accounting Service may need information to distribute future pension benefits to the non-military spouse.
Misconduct allegations can have serious consequences
In the average American divorce, spouses may make accusations against one another in court. Problems ranging from substance-abuse to infidelity can come up in court and potentially affect property division or support terminations.
However, allegations of certain kinds of misconduct during a divorce could have implications for someone pursing a military career. For example, infidelity, especially if it involves another service member, could lead to career consequences, like a court-martial.
Recognizing the unique challenges of a military divorce will help you prepare for court as a service member or the spouse of one.