How is divorce different when one spouse is in the military?

When a husband or wife is a member of the U.S. military, the marriage is constantly challenged by long separations, frequent moves and the inherent danger of the job. As in the civilian world, sometimes marriages don’t work out, but for those in the military the pressures on the marriage can be different and a divorce more complicated. A Howard County divorce lawyer must understand the applicable rights to members of the armed services and their non-military spouses. Generalized information can’t replace the assistance of experienced divorce lawyers.

Although military members will have to deal with their divorce in much the same way as civilians do, there are important differences. While the laws in the state where the filing is made will take precedence in most aspects of family law, federal law governs some aspects of divorce for military personnel. If one member of the couple is deployed or is unable to appear due to military obligations, they may be able to have a “stay” in the proceedings.

A divorced spouse who was not a member of the military may be able to retain various privileges and benefits that were in effect during the marriage, such as the right to shop at the base commissary and to receive medical care through the military’s Tricare system. The extent of these rights may vary, depending upon factors such as the amount of time the couple was married and how long the serving spouse was in the military. Children of the marriage will be eligible until the age of 21 regardless of how long the marriage lasted. This is extended to age 23 if the child attends college. The military program Tricare also allows the purchasing of medical care up to age 26.

With spousal and child support, the military requires that a parent provide support if there has not been a court order. This is meant to be temporary until there is a court order. To receive spousal and child support, the request must be made through a civilian court. If the filing is made while one member of the household is overseas and deployed, it is possible that the civilian court won’t recognize it.

Members of the military who are considering divorce should understand all of their rights and obligations under both Maryland law and federal law.

Source:, “Rights and Benefits of Divorced Spouses in the Military,” accessed Aug. 15, 2014

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