Couple going through a military divorce.

Military Divorces Are Not Fairytales

Movies about life in the military are often laughable. The weapons and other equipment depicted are all wrong. The training montages are often senseless and brutal. And even battle scenes “based on a true story” are unrealistic. Serious subjects, such as military divorces, get turned into warped fairytales. 

If there’s a good plot, you can overlook some of these flaws, but the two attorneys on the Human Alchemy team, Leah Eccles Watson and Genie Lyons, have a hard time enjoying a film if it glosses over the human costs of war. Watson served in the Air Force and Lyons was an Air Force brat. They know the true struggles faced by those in the military are not often shown on the silver screen.

Why Military Divorces Are Not Straightforward

It’s not all flag-waving and hugs at the airport when a service member comes home. Often, the strain of living apart, experiencing very different things, drives a couple apart. Like many aspects of life when one or both partners is serving in the military, divorce is not as straightforward as it is for civilian couples.

Negotiating a fair child custody agreement that recognizes one parent may be deployed now or in the future, and dividing up military retirement benefits are often the most challenging tasks. But even the first step — figuring out where to file your case — can be difficult. Military families may be able to file for divorce in:

  • The state where the service member is stationed;
  • The state where the service member claims legal residency (Home of Record);
  • The state where the dependant or dual-military spouse resides; or 
  • The state where the dependent or dual-military spouse claims legal residency.

It is important to note that you do not have to get divorced in the state where you were married. In fact, it may be impossible for you to do that if you no longer have ties to that state. 

If you and your spouse have minor children, you may be forced to file in the county where your children have resided for the most recent 6-month period. However, there are exceptions to this rule. 

Where you choose to file your divorce matters. A lot. Divorce laws vary from state to state, and even though you are in the military so some exceptions apply, those laws will shape your case. Perhaps the biggest factor to consider is how quickly your case will be processed and whether there is a waiting period before you can file. 

Choosing a location to file your case is something an experienced family law attorney who is familiar with military life and military divorce can advise you on. Our firm regularly helps couples in the pre-divorce stage figure out if filing in the Vancouver, WA/Portland, OR is a good idea, or if they should file elsewhere. 

Whether you are in the pre-divorce stage, or are actively looking for local counsel, the Human Alchemy team is here to help. Please contact us today to schedule an initial consultation.