Navigating Military Divorce in California

Two wedding bands lay in the palm of someone's hand

Going through a divorce can be difficult on its own, but when one of the spouses is in the military, it adds a whole new layer of questions.

Fortunately, there are systems in place to ease the process for military parents going through a divorce. With a little research and some patience, the process can be made as smooth as possible.

So, what do you need to know if you’re going through a military divorce in California? For starters, California is a “no-fault” divorce state, which means there is no guilty party in a separation. The role of the state in your divorce is to help the divorcing spouses reach fair agreements relating to their lives, belongings, and children, so they can both move ahead in their lives.

Once divorce proceedings are initiated and both spouses are aware of the movement, it will take six months to complete the process. This is a mandatory waiting period to protect both spouses.

The military considers divorce a private civil matter — they are, after all, your employer. With that said, there are some specific challenges you may face as a military father. This blog post can help you navigate those challenges, so you can reach the best outcome possible for your family.

Your Rights & Responsibilities

If you’re the one filing for divorce, it’s your responsibility to file in your home state. This means that even if you’re working overseas, you are not subject to their jurisdiction. If you have several legal homes, you can choose where to file. In this post, we’ll focus on California specifically.

If your spouse is the one filing for divorce, it’s important that you get a good understanding of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. This act protects your rights while you’re on active duty. Normally, there’s a time limit required to respond to a divorce filing; but if your spouse files for divorce while you’re overseas, this act can extend the administrative procedures to allow you to answer in a more realistic timeframe.

Your Spouse’s Rights & Responsibility

One of the first things that seems to come up in military divorces is the matter of ID Cards. Here is the general rule: it is your spouse and child(ren)’s right to retain their family member ID cards unless Congress decides to take those cards away. As the military spouse, you may apply for and sponsor your family for these cards — but Congress is the one who gives the ID cards, and they’re the only ones who can take them away.

Usually the nonmilitary spouse will lose their ID card after the divorce is finalized, but some exceptions do apply when it comes to long-term marriages.

If you live on-base, another common subject that separating couples ask about is military family housing. As a military member, you cannot evict your spouse or children from this housing — only the installation commander can do that. You may be placed in barracks while your family stays in the family housing; but, there is usually a 30 day limit for a spouse to stay in military housing without their military spouse.

Finally, your spouse may be entitled to some of your retired pay, medical care, or other benefits. The Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act allows the court to take care of administering this, so it’s important to be aware of this act as it relates to your situation.

Child Support & Custody

When it comes to child care and custody, remember that divorce is a civil proceeding. That means the standard California laws apply when it comes to custody and child support. You’ll have to negotiate an arrangement with your spouse, which will likely involve legal representation from an attorney. In determining child support, the court will consider your income, your spouse’s income, and additional factors such as time spent with the children.

Don’t hesitate to reach out to your legal aid office if you’re a service member. They’ve seen similar scenarios, and may be able to help put your situation in context. That said, there are limits to their expertise; and it’s always wise to reach out to a professional attorney with expertise in military divorce for more detailed and personalized information. Your attorney can help you assess your family’s unique situation, and advocate on your behalf to the court.

At Father’s Rights, we specialize in helping our clients navigate matters in divorce, child custody, and child support — and we have particular experience with clients in the military. With our expertise and legal counsel, we’ve helped military clients minimize the burden of support during deployment, coordinate parenting plans while they’re on deployment, and facilitate contact with their children; all while taking into account the great service they’re providing for their country.

Contact us today to speak to an experienced attorney about your situation and navigate this process as smoothly as possible.

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