Military Divorce in Maryland Can Be Complicated

She is in the Navy on a ship for the next two years. This is her second overseas deployment since they got married. He is living in Bowie trying to raise two kids on his own while she is away. He’s in the Army Reserves, but he really wants to go back on active duty. Things have not been great between the two, and the last time she was home on leave a huge fight led to talk of divorce so they could both get on with their lives. He has a lot of questions about how they can get a divorce while she is deployed. He does not want to wait two years until she returns. What will happen with the kids, and the house they just bought?

To get started with the divorce process the spouse filing for divorce needs to figure out the proper jurisdiction and venue in which to file the divorce petition. The Plaintiff will file the petition in the circuit court.  The residency requirement for a Maryland divorce is one continuous year immediately prior to the filing for divorce. The grounds for a military divorce are the same for a civilian divorce. The military spouse must be located and then served with divorce papers.

What are the differences between a military divorce and a civilian one?

Military divorces are settled in the state court rather than military courts. There are several rules that apply to active members of the military with regard to divorce that must be followed.

If the active duty spouse is served with divorce papers they are entitled to a 90-day delay after their active duty service is over in order to give them time to find and work with an attorney and prepare their case. The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SSCRA) protects members of the military from ending up divorced by default especially during times of war. If the active-duty service member does not want to contest the divorce they can waive the delay and let the divorce proceed.

In Maryland, child support is determined according to the state guidelines, however, child support and spousal support combined may not exceed 60% of the service member’s pay.

With regard to the military spouse’s retirement benefits, the Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act (USFSPA) governs how they are disbursed and protects them from becoming joint property in a divorce. Marital property is all property acquired during the marriage except by gift or inheritance. This includes military retirement benefits. Ordinarily, the Court would issue a Court order for the division of those benefits. The Court order would go to the military to be processed and the military would pay the former spouse upon retirement and according to the terms of the Order. If, however, the spouses were married for less than 10 years, the military will not make direct payment to the former spouse. In those cases, payments must be made directly.

Additional considerations for military divorce

When the divorcing couple has children and one parent is on active duty with long deployments, establishing a permanent parenting plan can be a challenging task.

Before filing for divorce from a member of the military it makes sense to take the time to learn about the process and get clear on your rights and responsibilities. Scheduling a consultation with a knowledgeable Maryland divorce attorney who has had experience with military divorce will help put your mind at ease and answer the questions that have been on your mind.

Are you thinking about getting divorced from a member of the military? If so you are welcome to contact Cynthia H. Clark & Associates, LLC to schedule a consultation. We understand the nuances of military divorce, and we have the skills, experience and resources you want on your side during complex divorce proceedings.