How is Military Family Law Different From Civilian Law?

Oct 27, 2019 | Military Family Law

When it comes to the law, there are some important issues to consider. Most people only think of civilian law, but for those in the military — or those who have military spouses — there can be rules and regulations that are not what’s typically expected. Military family law, especially rules surrounding divorce and child support, will have to be followed when a family where one or more of the spouses is in the military is involved. Here’s what you need to know about the ways in which military family law and civilian family law are different.

Divorcing? Where Should You File?

In a standard civilian law divorce, you generally file in the state where you reside. There may be rules about how long you have to live there first, and you may also be able to file in a different state of the person you’re divorcing lives there. But for the military, it’s somewhat more complicated. That’s because the court that has jurisdiction over your divorce proceedings can be more difficult to determine when one or both spouses are deployed. Generally, you’ll file in the state where your military spouse is considered to be a resident or a state that you both agree on.

Support Guidelines for Active Duty Service Members

Service members have to pay child support just like anyone else. They may also have to be supportive to their spouse after a divorce. That can depend on the length of time you were married, and other factors. If someone in the military fails to pay their child support, there are both civilian and military family law penalties. Those penalties can include being removed from military service. States generally handle support agreements, but there can be complications and adjustments for those who are deployed. Modifications of support agreements are also more common in military families.

Visitation and Child Custody

Moving frequently, being deployed, and the schedule that a service member must keep can greatly affect how a military family operates. When it comes to a divorcing couple trying to share visitation or custody, it can be even more complicated. A standard type of visitation schedule might not work well, and it can be more difficult for a member of the military to gain custody of their children due to factors such as future deployment. Before beginning a divorce proceeding, it’s a good idea to seek legal advice about issues you might face that are specifically related to military service.

Be Aware of Benefits and Pension Rights

You might not think of the military as an employer, but it technically is. It provides medical benefits, pensions, insurance, and other options that might be partially yours, even after a divorce. It’s not the same as a civilian division of these kinds of issues, though, due to the special way the military handles its healthcare and other matters. Don’t settle for less than you deserve, or less that what’s fair. Additionally, be aware that some areas of life can be harder to separate when there is a military spouse involved. The right attorney can guide you through the process.

Whether you’re in the military or your spouse is the one in uniform, there are special considerations you’ll need to be aware of. In civilian law, a divorce can be a straightforward procedure, especially if you both agree on assets, custody issues, and related matters. But once military law is introduced into the equation, there are more areas where you’ll need to be clear on the rules. With legal counsel, your rights will be protected and your responsibilities properly met.

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