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How military divorces do and don’t differ from civilian divorces

Military personnel live different lives than civilians. Their service to our country comes with different rules and regulations than most of us follow in our day-to-day lives.

For service members or their spouses looking to divorce, they may wonder if that rigor follows them into the courtroom. How exactly do military divorces differ from civilian divorces?

In many ways, these divorces don’t differ. The general process followed to initiate and finalize a divorce isn’t markedly distinguished from a civilian couple. In Illinois, the grounds for divorce are the same as they are for civilian divorces. Illinois is a no-fault divorce state.

However, there are some factors to consider that could affect a military divorce.

Who can get divorced in Illinois?

To file for divorce in Illinois, either the service member or their spouse must reside in Illinois or either party must be stationed in the state. Both parties do not have to be in Illinois. 

Potentially longer proceedings

The divorce process can take longer for an active duty member in a remote area or one who is permanently stationed overseas. Under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), divorce proceedings may be postponed for the entire time the active duty member is on duty and for up to 60 days thereafter. However, if the active duty member wishes to get divorced, this postponement can be waived.

Unless an active duty member signs and files a waiver affidavit acknowledging the divorce action, the active duty spouse must be personally served with a summons and a copy of the divorce action in order for Illinois courts to have jurisdiction over them.

Retired pay can be classified as property

Under the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act (USFSPA), states are given permission to classify military retired pay as property, as opposed to income, for the purposes of divorce proceedings.

A spouse will not automatically be entitled to a service member’s retired pay, but they can be awarded a portion of the pay as property in a final court order. When it comes time to determine property division in a divorce, this will likely be a factor.

For military couples looking to begin divorce proceedings, talking to a divorce attorney with experience helping military personnel can be beneficial for understanding the ways a military divorce could differ from that of their civilian friends. While most of the process will look the same, there are differences that an experienced attorney can help couples address.

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