Options for a Military Divorce

This chapter provides practical and substantive information on dealing with pre-divorce matters. If you are considering a separation or divorce, there are usually three options available: (1) the parties can negotiate a Marital Separation Agreement; or (2) a party can seek support through the military; or (3) a party can pursue a limited or absolute divorce through the state court.  In addition, there are military and civil protective orders to deal with domestic violence issues. This chapter outlines the advantages and disadvantages of each of these alternatives.

Marital Separation Agreements and Divorce:  

Last year about 30,000 military couples got divorced, according to the Pentagon’s statistics.[1] Over the past 12 years, divorce rates among military couples have ticked upwards as the stresses of war, long deployments and tight financial circumstances have caused more relationships to fall apart. Women service members are particularly likely to get divorced as each year one out of every 11 gets divorced.[2]  The reasons for the high military divorce rates are as diverse as the couples separating.  This chapter addresses what you should do if you believe your marriage is over.

After you have decided that you no longer want to be married, the first question you should ask is whether you should get a divorce? While you may want to be rid of your spouse, it is not necessary to get a divorce to separate from your spouse.  Often, it is in your financial interest (as well as your spouse’s) to remain legally married even when the marriage is over.

In states like Maryland, state law requires a couple to be separated for at least one year before either is eligible to file a petition for divorce (unless you can prove adultery or cruelty).  After filing, it takes an additional six months or so for a contested divorce hearing.  What should you do in the meantime while are waiting to get a final divorce?

When a final (or absolute) divorce is not available or not desirable, a Marital Separation and Voluntary Settlement Agreement allows the parties to end their marital partnership and get on with their lives although they remain legally married.

[1]   DoD statistics on divorce for 2013 as cited in MilitaryNews.com; http://www.military.com/daily-news/2013/01/23/military-divorce-rate-down-slightly-in-2012.html.

[2]   Id.