The phrase “military divorce” does not mean a divorce granted by the military. In fact, the military does not grant divorces. A military divorce refers to a state court granting a divorce to a person or persons who are in the military. This means that if you or your spouse are in the military and are seeking a divorce in Arizona, Arizona law will apply to the proceedings.
However, because of the fact that you and/or your spouse are serving in the military, you need to know that federal law is also likely to affect several different issues in the divorce. While military divorces are like other divorces in the way that property division, alimony, and other issues incident to divorce will have to be divided. There are several unique aspects of a military divorce that set them apart from civilian divorces.
Special Considerations in Military Divorces
There are special considerations in military divorces that are important to be aware of right from the start. If a civilian spouse or service member is looking to file for divorce in Arizona, he or she must have lived in the state for at least 90 days prior to filing the petition. Arizona has this threshold in place to make sure people do not come to the state specifically to take advantage of Arizona’s community property divorce law. If a service member is deployed or stationed somewhere other than what is considered to be their permanent domicile, the service member can elect a “home state.” This means that a service member can elect Arizona as his or her home state even if the spouse lives in some other state.
If a civilian spouse is intending to seek a divorce from a member of the military who is currently deployed outside of the state, he or she needs to be aware of the Service Members Civil Relief Act. This Act prevents a civilian spouse from initiating divorce proceedings against a military spouse during deployment. Once the service member has returned from deployment, a divorce petition may be filed.
There are also special considerations that will come into play during the division of assets, calculation of alimony or spousal support, and calculation of child support. For instance, certain military benefits may be exempt from these calculations. If a service member receives disability benefits as a result of being injured during service, these benefits will not be included in a gross income calculation. An Arizona court is not even authorized to compensate the non-military spouse for the reduction in income by awarding them an increase in nonmilitary income.
As far as the division of marital property, it is important to know that federal law does not permit the division and distribution of a service members’ retirement benefits to a former spouse unless they have been married at least ten years while the service member was on active duty. There are also specific laws pertaining to long term marriages involving a service member. The Uniform Service Former Spouse Protection Act applies to a marriage lasting at least 20 years to a service member spouse who must have served at least 20 years in the armed forces. This Act allows the former spouse to receive such benefits as healthcare, exchange services, and commissary access.
Military Divorce Attorney
Divorce is complicated. Military divorces add several other levels of complexity that require a skilled attorney who is knowledgeable in this specific area. At Cohen Family Law, we have the experience with military divorces necessary to most effectively advocate on behalf of our clients and navigate the process. Contact us today.