Divorce Involving a Member of the U.S. Military


Military divorce involves a member of the uniformed services and his or her spouse, who may or may not be in the services. Even though military divorce may be similar to a usual divorce, there are a few differences, such as legal protections, jurisdiction of court, residency requirements for filing for divorce, division of military retirement benefits or pension, and provision for child support. A service member facing a divorce should be aware of the Service Members’ Civil Relief Act of 2003 and the Uniform Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act (USFSPA).

Protection from Divorce Proceedings

The Servicemembers’ Civil Relief Act of 2003 (formerly known as the Soldiers and Sailors’ Civil Relief Act) provides that certain civil lawsuits may not proceed for a period of time while a soldier or sailor is deployed. The Act protects all service members from lawsuits, including divorce, so they can “devote their entire energy to the defense needs of the Nation.” The Act states that a court can delay legal proceedings for the time that the service member is on active duty and for up to 60 day following active duty.

Jurisdiction of the Court

If the spouse of a military member seeks a divorce, the spouse on duty must be served with a petition for divorce in order for a state court to have jurisdiction. If the spouse is overseas or deployed, one may request that the military authorities serve the spouse, but the spouse must consent to service. If he or she does not consent, a request can be made to the court to appoint an officer who will be authorized to serve the papers to the spouse unless such spouse is serving on a ship or at a shore installation.