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How divorce is different with one spouse in the military

On Behalf of | Mar 4, 2022 | Firm News

A military servicemember receives housing benefits that reduce their cost of living. Good benefits and higher pay for those with families can make a military career a great option for young adults. A military career can make life more financially stable for a young couple starting out, but it can also strain a relationship.

Moving frequently can be hard for the non-military spouse and any children that the couple shares. Long work hours and job-related secrecy can strain marital relationships. When a military marriage comes to an end, the divorce will be somewhat different than the average civilian divorce in Washington.

What makes military divorces unique?

Much of the actual divorce process is the same

Despite what some people think, military divorces still occur in the civilian courts. Servicemembers and their spouses are subject to Washington state laws, like community property rules.

The Washington family courts interpret those laws to split a couple’s property and make custody arrangements for their children. The eventual outcome of the divorce will be different and the process will require a few extra steps if one of the spouses is an active-duty servicemember.

Military divorces have more consequences then civilian divorces

A servicemember’s marital status and the overall size of the household have a significant impact on their pay, so a divorce can mean a reduction in compensation. The non-military spouse may not work because of the relocation requirements of a military career, or they may not have any support network in the local community. This can complicate the separation of households significantly.

Additionally, servicemembers may need to create broader and more flexible parenting plans because of the possibility of deployment or of transfer to a different base. Arranging for interstate shared custody and virtual visitation can be important considerations.

The servicemember spouse will also need to update their family care plan. In cases of long-term marriages, non-military spouses may potentially seek to share the servicemember’s pension. While Washington law will determine how couples split their assets, military rules govern who distributes those benefits.

Identifying some of the unique challenges that may arise during your military divorce can help you create a reasonable plan for minimizing the long-term consequences on your finances and career.