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How is a military divorce different than a civilian dissolution?

Military service members in New Mexico suffer from the same marital issues as civilians. While the details leading up to and concerning a military divorce between spouses are no more complex than those between civilian couples, there are additional requirements and special rules that apply to a military divorce. These differences could impact the process, filing requirements and how military benefits are divided. Because of this, it is important to understand these major differences.

How is a military divorce different than a civilian dissolution? First, both state and federal laws govern military divorces. In these matters, federal laws could impact where the divorcing couples ends up filing for divorce and how a military pension is divided, while state laws could govern how alimony and support issues are addressed and resolved.

Jurisdiction is also another way military and civilian divorces differ. A court must have jurisdiction before it can hear a case or make a ruling on a divorce. For civilians, this is generally the place where the spouses reside. For military members, it may be where they hold legal residence even if they are stationed somewhere else.

Lastly, the rules regarding the division of pensions and benefits during dissolution differs between civilians and military members. Much like civilian divorces, retirement benefits are subject to division between spouses during a divorce. However, in a military divorce, the Uniformed Services Former Spouses' Protection Act controls the division of military pensions and benefits. This act will determine whether the state court will treat military retirement pay as separate or marital property.

While there are important divorce issues to address in both civilian and military divorces, a military divorce could include additional concerns and requirements. Due to this, military divorces should not be treated exactly like civilian divorces. Those dealing with military divorce issues or are seeking to initiate a military divorce should understand their rights and options so they can take appropriate action.

Source: FindLaw, "Military Divorce," accessed March 9, 2015

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