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Dealing with Military Divorce

Deciding to end your marriage can feel like the final step on a long journey. But in many ways, divorce is just the beginning of a transition — one you need to manage well for all concerned. Military divorce has special considerations. Learn about them here.

Military lawyers and the legal side of military divorce

Understanding how the process works can help save you time, expense and emotional strain on you and your family. Military lawyers can help. You should know that:

  • State law and local procedures largely govern divorce. Some federal statutes and military regulations may apply, depending on where you file.
  • Free military legal assistance services are available to service members and families through the installation legal assistance office. Services can include:
    • Mediation
    • Separate legal assistance attorneys for the service member and the spouse
    • Advice on legal issues, including divorce and child custody, income taxes, the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act and wills
  • Military lawyers — called judge advocates, or JAGs — also are available to help you and your spouse understand the legal implications of your divorce. To find a military divorce lawyer on an installation near you, visit the Installation Program Directory.

Dealing with the emotional stress of divorce

No doubt about it, divorce is a challenging time. Even if you feel confident in your decision, know what support is available. Military OneSource can offer these resources:

  • Non-medical counseling: Talking to a counselor can help reduce stress and keep you mission-ready. You can access counseling face-to-face, online, by phone or by video chat.
  • Health and wellness coaching: Don't let your basic health habits slide. Partner with a Military OneSource health and wellness coach. You may even find it healing to take care of yourself.
  • Financial counseling: Finances are likely to play a large role in your divorce. A Military OneSource financial counselor can assist you in getting your finances in order to make the process easier.

Call Military OneSource at 800-342-9647 to learn more about non-medical counseling and other services, and find support for the other members of your family.

Helping your children deal with divorce

Even if your children aren't showing their struggle outwardly, it's important to recognize how this change in your family may be affecting them.

You can help your children adjust by supporting their feelings and using the resources available to help your family. Contact the child and youth behavioral military and family life counselors at your installation if your child needs additional support.

Effect of divorce on military benefits

Until your divorce is final, you may retain your identification card and continue to receive your commissary, exchange and health care benefits. Other benefits that will be affected:

  • Installation housing: You will typically lose installation family housing within 30 days of the service member or other family members moving out due to a divorce.
  • Moving costs: The military may pay the moving expenses of the non-military spouse returning home from an overseas duty station. The divorcing parties could negotiate the cost of an in-state move as part of the settlement.
  • Health care benefits: When you lose TRICARE benefits because of divorce, you can buy up to 36 months of temporary health care coverage through the Department of Defense Continued Health Care Benefit program.
  • Eligible biological and adopted children of the service member may receive TRICARE benefits up to age 21 (or age 23 if enrolled in college).
  • Spousal and child support: Each military service has policies requiring service members to support family members upon separation in the absence of an agreement or court order.
    • These policies are designed to be temporary
    • A commander's authority is limited without a court order.
    • You must send the court order to the Defense Finance and Accounting Service directing the government to pay monies for support or alimony.

Additional military rules and situations regarding divorce

  • The Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act: A federal law that provides former, un-remarried spouses of military members with certain benefits, after a certain number of years of marriage.
  • Divorce overseas: A U.S. court may not recognize a divorce filed overseas, so it's best to file in the United States. Learn where military divorce laws allow service members and their spouses to file for divorce
  • Abandoned spouses: Abandonment is the act of deliberately leaving one's spouse without consent (or notification, in many cases) with no intent of returning. If your service member spouse has left you, you are still technically married, have rights and are entitled to support. Contact the legal assistance office at your installation to find out more.

Whether you're dealing with the legal, emotional or other aspects of divorce, Military OneSource stands ready to help. Call 800-342-9647.