Military Divorce FAQs

How do I serve the divorce papers on my spouse in the military?

A service member must be personally served with the divorce papers. If he or she is deployed or overseas, effecting personal service may be difficult. When on a military base or aboard ship, for example, military regulations must be complied with. When in a foreign country, personal service on the military member will have to satisfy the laws of the foreign territory, often falling under The Hague Convention or international treaty.

With my child in a foreign country, how do I move forward with military child custody?

Apply for a custody order from the foreign court. This means treaties, such as The Hague Convention, are controlling. The parents could also enter into a parenting agreement (proving the other parent’s consent to custody), which is strongly recommended whenever possible. An enforceable parenting agreement will keep as much control as possible in the hands of the parents, and gives less control to the foreign court over the custody issue. Any foreign court order would include provisions for returning the child to the U.S.

My military spouse has a pension, will that be divided in the divorce?

Yes. ¬†Before military retirement benefits may be divided, the Arizona court must establish jurisdiction over the pension. Jurisdiction over the military pension is established consensually when the service member is the petitioner in the divorce. If the military member didn’t file the petition, but consents to jurisdiction by responding to the petition, then jurisdiction is established over the pension. If there is not consent, then the nonmilitary spouse who files for the divorce will have to establish jurisdiction over the pension by filing in the service member’s home state (home state being the one listed on the service member’s Leave and Earnings Statement (LES)).

With a military divorce in my future, what health insurance options will I have?

Active duty military receive Tricare health services through the Military Health System (MHS). If you have been released from military service, then the Continued Health Care Benefit Program (CHCBP) provides transitional health insurance after Tricare coverage ends. If you were insured by your employer, then the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) allows anyone who is covered under the health insurance plan, including a spouse, to make the premium payments and continue that coverage for up to 18 months. Military dependents receive health and dental care through the Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Uniformed Services (CHAMPUS). When CHAMPUS ends, a former spouse may choose the CHCBP coverage, or select a nonmilitary health insurer.

Without Court-Ordered Support, Can I Enforce Support Obligations on My Military Spouse?

The family member seeking support should send a written complaint to the service member’s commander and request enforcement of military support regulations. The commander enforces service member compliance with military regulations. The member may be reprimanded (a permanent stain on one’s military service record), have pay forfeited, or be criminally sanctioned for noncompliance with military regulations. The commander may schedule support payments going forward, prospectively, from when the family member’s complaint was received. However, the commander is not able to enforce payment of support arrearages.

How will the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) affect my divorce?

When service materially affects the service member’s ability to respond to civil lawsuits, including divorce, the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) provides legal protections. Those protections include a stay, or suspension, of the divorce proceedings for a 90-day period. The purpose of this delay is to give the service member additional time to respond to the petition and prepare for trial. The SCRA also protects against default judgments — including divorce and paternity actions — against military members. What the SCRA won’t do is protect the service member from criminal prosecution for nonpayment of child support.

After divorce, what benefits will my children receive with military life insurance?

Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI) and the Veterans’ Group Life Insurance (VGLI) are government programs offered by the military. The maximum coverage that may be purchased through the SGLI and VGLI programs (or a combination thereof) is $400,000.¬† Any service member who is active duty, Ready Reserves, or National Guard is eligible for SGLI coverage. SGLI and VGLI are not mandatory, so a service member may completely opt out of the coverage.

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