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How are military and civilian divorces different?

On Behalf of | Mar 25, 2021 | Divorce

From a legal perspective, active-duty military members who are divorcing their spouses go through the same proceedings as civilians. However, if you or your Washington spouse are in the military and planning to divorce, there are some additional factors to consider.

How long does a military divorce take?

A military divorce could take longer than a civilian divorce proceeding if one or both spouses are on active duty at a remote base or are permanently stationed overseas. Not all states have strict residency requirements for members of the military who want to file for divorce in the state where they are stationed. This means the divorce could take a few months or a few years to become final.

Another factor that can prolong divorce proceedings is the role the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act (USFSPA) plays in the divorce. This act protects the military from paying child support, alimony, or retirement pay. Under the USFSPA, the military defers these issues to the state where the active duty member resides. According to the act, the state can treat military pay as property instead of income.

Military pension payments in a divorce

The Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) is responsible for making direct payments to spouses who are entitled to it. An ex-spouse can only receive these payments if they were married to the military member for at least 10 years, which must overlap with 10 years of military service. For instance, if a couple were married for 15 years but the military spouse was only in the service for 8 of those years, the non-military spouse is not eligible for DFAS payments.