If you are a civilian going through divorce from a military servicemember, you can expect to engage with the military throughout your divorce proceedings. Federal law sets some limits on divorcing military personnel, such as that the divorce cannot be finalized by default while your partner is deployed.

If you are the petitioner, you will have to wait until they return from deployment for a final order, and possibly even for the divorce to proceed at all. You are permitted to consult with a Judge Advocate General officer (JAG) on base, who can recommend a civilian divorce attorney to you. Our attorneys are experienced in military divorce cases in Alpharetta and can advise civilian spouses on what to expect from the process.

Responding to Divorce Papers as a Civilian

If you are not the petitioner, receiving service of process from your spouse who has been deployed for months may not be the kind of surprise you enjoy. If they filed for divorce in Alpharetta, you, as a civilian, have 30 days to respond, so use your time wisely. But you do have options from the time you receive a copy of the divorce petition until it is final, with which you can take care of yourself and any children.

Don’t let your ex tell you to turn in your military ID card before the divorce is final. It is issued by the U.S. Government, not your spouse – so they cannot take it away from you. Until the divorce is final, you can keep using the medical, commissary, and exchange benefits.

If you have been stationed overseas as a civilian, check with the JAG on base to see if the Government will pay your way home before the end of your partner’s tour of duty. Because you are a civilian, you do not have the military privilege of requesting a “stay” to the proceedings like your spouse would if you had petitioned, but Alpharetta law allows you to challenge the jurisdiction, the venue, the process, and the grounds your spouse laid out in the petition.

Civilian and Military Parents in Divorce

If you are the custodial parent or have joint custody of your minor children, you can have an access card to continue visiting the commissary, etc., on behalf of the children regardless of the length of your marriage. When your ex-spouse is deployed, you will be the go-to caregiver for the minor children. You will need to sign temporary parenting plan modifications each time the servicemember is deployed to arrange for the continuous care of the children no matter how long they are gone or even if they were to die.

Otherwise, if you are not a custodial parent, deployment will not give you temporary custody. Instead, most likely the civilian family of the servicemember will become the primary caregiver. You will have to sign off on the Family Care Plans that do not include you as the first-choice caregiver.

What You Get to Keep

Depending on how long you and the servicemember were married, your life may not change that much. After your divorce, you may be able to remain in military housing as a civilian, depending on what branch of the military your spouse is in. Additionally, if you pass the “20/20/20 rule” (20+ years married, 20+ years in the military, 20+ years of overlap), you will keep your Tri-Care health insurance.

You can also keep your military ID card and your Morale, Welfare, and Recreation privileges for life – such as being able to frequent the commissary, exchange, and theater on base – but must surrender them if you remarry.

Your spouse will be required to ensure you have financial support until a final support order is entered. After that, you can serve your final child support or spousal support orders on DFAS for direct payment, instead of depending on your ex-spouse to write you a check every month.

You can petition for the Alpharetta court to divide your spouse’s military retirement pay equitably along with your other marital property, so that when your ex retires, you will have that stream of income. No one enjoys divorce, but you can make the best of it. Make use of your legal protections as a civilian. Consult an Alpharetta lawyer today to learn more about civilian spouses in military divorce cases.

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