If you or your spouse serves in the military and you are facing divorce, you have several special considerations that do not apply to civilians. Preparing for divorce as a military member may involve accommodations for moves and deployments as well as unique laws regarding property division and ongoing benefits. 

Here are a few items to keep in mind when negotiating a divorce agreement as a service member. 

Military OneSource benefits 

The federal government offers counseling and other resources for military personnel during divorce. These resources include online and face-to-face therapy sessions, personalized health and wellness coaching and financial planning services. 

Legal process during active service 

Active duty service members have certain rights when it comes to court proceedings. If you receive divorce papers from your spouse while on active duty, you have the right to request postponement of these proceedings and protection against judgments associated with failure to respond or appear. These protections fall under the federal Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. 

Benefits for former military spouses 

If you are ending a long marriage, a non-serving spouse may continue to receive medical and other benefits. This applies to cases where the marriage lasted at least 20 years, the military member served at least 20 years and those two circumstances overlapped for at least 20 years. 

When these circumstances overlap for at least 15 years, the spouse may retain medical coverage for one year. During the separation period, both spouses retain benefits until the divorce is final. 

In addition, the Former Spouse Protection Act requires military retirement pay to fall into the category of marital property. Pensions are subject to fair division between the spouses in divorce proceedings. 

Support guidelines 

The military has established child and family support guidelines that apply in cases where the service member and his or her spouse are unable to agree on a fair financial support arrangement. The individual’s Commander may opt to enforce these guidelines, which vary by branch of service. 

Military personnel also have the right to retain shared child custody regardless of duty. The spouses must arrive at a flexible arrangement that respects the relationship of the child with both parents.