The Process of a Military Divorce

In News by YKF Law

Divorce is never easy, regardless of circumstances. While the divorce process for service members is legally the same as a civilian, some factors can affect the divorce. If you’re in the military or are a spouse of a servicemember and you’re considering divorce, continue reading to learn about the process of a military divorce.

The Process of a Military Divorce

Legal proceedings are the same for a military divorce and a civilian divorce. First, one must file for divorce with a petition for dissolution of marriage. This petition will include information regarding each spouse and their marriage, including but limited to the following: both spouses’ names, social security numbers, and addresses. The petition will also include how long the couple has been married, information about minor children, and requests for child support, custody, spousal maintenance, property division, and any other requests for how things may be divided.

Once the petition for dissolution of marriage is filed, divorce proceedings are the same regardless of whether one or both spouses are service members. Temporary orders can be filed, settlements will be negotiated, a divorce trial may be held, and the judge will sign off on the divorce. Each divorce case is unique, so there may be certain legal factors like misconduct, and some divorces are uncontested, which can present its own challenges. However, legal proceedings are the same for a military divorce and a civilian divorce.

Though legal proceedings in military and civilian divorce cases are the same, there are some particular circumstances and challenges with a military divorce. Continue reading to learn about these unique challenges and how a divorce attorney can help.

Unique Challenges with Military Divorces

From deployment to things like the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act (USFSPA) and the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, there are a few things you’ll want to understand about the military divorce process.


Deployment and overseas divorces can present their challenges. Unlike civilian divorces where both spouses usually reside in the United States during the divorce process, some service members are deployed during the divorce process. Serving papers to the deployed spouse may be delayed or impeded depending on their location; if the location is classified then they may not receive divorce papers until their deployment ends. Ultimately, the divorce process may take longer than a civilian divorce if a spouse is deployed.

Child Custody

Child custody is another factor that’s unique to a military divorce. While the court will still determine legal and physical custody based on the child’s best interest, custody arrangements during deployments could be a little different. Contrary to popular belief, the nonmilitary spouse will not be awarded sole custody simply because the other spouse may be deployed. The court looks at a number of factors when determining custody of children, but deployment by itself will rarely affect if a spouse is awarded custody or not.

Service Member Rights

Under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), those in the military who are on active duty may be covered when it comes to how soon they’re required to respond after being served divorce papers. The SCRA allows servicemembers to make stay requests which allow the case to be temporarily postponed when they’re not able to appear in court as a result of active duty. The court won’t automatically grant stays so it’s important to seek legal counsel to understand the SCRA and how it affects your unique case.

Military Spouse Rights

Under The Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act, the former spouse of a military member may be able to receive certain privileges they were accustomed to when married to the servicemember. These include commissary and medical benefits but only if they meet the requirements. However, the military spouse can use their benefits until the divorce is final.

Certain requirements must be met to retain your military ID card; known as the 20/20/20 rule, former military spouses must have either been married to their former service member spouse for 20 years, their spouse must have been in the military for 20 years, and there need to be at least 20 years of overlap for both military service and the marriage.


Military retirement is a unique asset of the marriage that will need to be addressed in a divorce, including military pensions, thrift savings plans, survivor benefits, and the necessary documents needed to divide military retirement.

The divorce attorneys at The Law Office of Young, Kuhl & Frick, LLC are dedicated to the practice of family law and can help guide you through the entire legal process keeping your best interests in mind whether you’re a service member or the spouse of a service member. With over fifty-three years of combined legal experience, our family law firm is comprised of a team that’s skilled in both negotiation and litigation, handling family law matters from the most complex to the most straightforward.

We have offices in Lee’s Summit, Missouri, and Leawood, Kansas (consultations by appointment only). In addition to our two physical locations, our firm’s family and divorce attorneys have practiced in Jackson, Clay, Cass, Lafayette, and Platte County, Missouri as well as Johnson County, Kansas. Contact our family law firm today to schedule a consultation – we’re able to meet in person or face-to-face via Zoom.