What to Know About Military Divorce in California

Marriage and divorce are both common experiences in the United States — and around 50% of married couples will end up divorcing. And while that number may seem quite high, did you know that when it comes to divorce in the military, combat veterans are more likely to get divorced than to actually see combat? An estimated 62% of combat veterans’ first marriages end in divorce. Moreover, female enlisted soldiers have more than double the divorce rate compared to female officers. 

Divorce is hard enough to navigate for any couple seeking dissolution, but when a military couple decides to get a divorce, there are extra challenges that can add more complexity and even more stress to the process. State and federal laws as well as military regulations can govern aspects of your case you may not know about. Let’s take a closer look at military divorce as it pertains to the state of California and how one can navigate divorce while in the service. 

Grounds for a Military Divorce in California

The military divorce laws in California can be quite complicated and may be difficult to parse and understand on your own, so it is highly advised to hire a divorce lawyer who has experience dealing with military divorces. 

No matter the status of either spouse, be it active duty, retired or in the guard or reserve, you can be impacted by a military divorce. California is also a no-fault state, meaning you cannot use adultery or desertion as grounds for divorce, though sometimes these reasons can be brought up for consideration during child custody hearings and when dividing up assets and property.

The grounds for filing for a divorce in California are similar, no matter if you are filing for a military or civilian divorce. These grounds include:  

  • Irreconcilable differences. Citing irreconcilable differences means that the end of the marriage was not the fault of one party in particular and there is no specific reason. 
  • Permanent legal incapacity of one spouse. This is when one spouse is proven to be clinically insane. To file this way, you must provide the court with a support order showing proof.

Before Filing for Military Divorce

Make sure to take these issues into consideration before starting your divorce as they may serve to complicate the proceedings. Speak with an expert California divorce attorney if you need help with any of the below issues.

Residency Requirements

A military spouse must file the proper divorce papers where the service member is stationed or the state where they are currently a resident. If you want to file for divorce in California, then one of you must either reside or have a station in the state.

Military Spouse Deployment

If you file for divorce while your spouse is deployed or on active duty for an extended period, then the rules for divorce are different. Having a spouse that is actively deployed can complicate the process of serving and processing a divorce.

The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) protects active-duty military members from civil judicial proceedings, which includes divorce papers and summons. In a normal civilian divorce, if a spouse ignores the summons, they default and get no say in asset division or child custody, but active service members in the military who can’t respond due to being on active duty are not subject to that default because of the SCRA. 

Property Division

Military divorces follow the same rules that civilian divorces do as far as property division is concerned. Since California is a community property state, generally, all property and debt acquired over the course of the marriage is considered joint property and will be divided equally. 

Spousal Support

Much like a civilian divorce, whichever military spouse earns more than their partner can be ordered to pay alimony. Just like in civilian divorces, a military spouse who earns more than their partner can be ordered to pay spousal support during the divorce proceedings. The amount is determined by a judge using factors such as:

  • Length of the marriage 
  • Financial needs of both spouses
  • The dependent spouse’s level of education 
  • The health and age of each spouse

The general rule of spousal support is that it can’t be more than 60% of the military spouse’s pay. If the couple has been married for less than 10 years, generally the alimony will only be paid for the time that is equal to half the length of the marriage. There are exceptions to this rule, however.

Child Custody and Support

California does not discriminate when it comes to military parents who are on active duty when it decides on child custody. If one of the military parents is deployed, it will not change the custody order or visitation schedule. It is best for military families with small children to try and settle their differences with an uncontested divorce to make custody issues easier since deployment and active duty are factors they must deal with. 

Filing Procedure for Military Members

The filling process  for a military divorce is as follows:

  1. Gather all of the documents pertaining to the divorce petition and fill them out. It is advised to have an attorney look over these documents before they are filed to ensure they are accurate. 
  2. Once filled out and signed, you pay the appropriate filing fee at your local superior court. 
  3. Serve your spouse with copies of the divorce petition and summons for the dissolution of the marriage. A friend, relative, sheriff or process server must deliver the papers on your behalf. 
  4. Have your spouse sign the papers and send them back within 30 days. 
  5. If a spouse opposes terms in the divorce documents, it is best to speak with your divorce attorney on the appropriate next steps.

Protect Yourself By Hiring An Attorney

No matter how amicable you think your divorce is or will be, there are still situations that could arise and cause conflict. Negotiation, separation of property, child support, and alimony all play significant parts in any divorce. Avoid costly mistakes that could have severe impacts on the rest of your life.

At Azemika & Azemika, our law firm is exclusively devoted to the field of family law. We handle military divorce cases, dissolution of domestic partnerships, child custody, visitation, child and spousal support, paternity, abandonment, and adoptions. Our partners at Azemika & Azemika will put their expertise to work for you and make sure your case is customized to your needs. Contact us today for your free case evaluation.

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