practice areas

Military Divorce Law

Military divorces for California residents or those stationed in California bases are subject to both State and Federal legal requirements. The military takes the view that family matters should remain private, and thus the State court holds jurisdiction for the proceedings as would any other divorce, coupled with additional military requirements.

Specific state and military divorce regulations are considered when a State court is overseeing the divorce of a servicemember.

A military divorce attorney will be knowledgeable about the intersection of all regulations that apply to your situation and can advise you with respect to all matters concerning your divorce while serving in the military or while being married to an active servicemember.

If you anticipate that your military divorce will be contested by your spouse, whether a naval divorce, marine divorce, or any other service branch, trust the attorneys at Shorb & Connor APC to discuss your situation and understand the sensitive nature of this matter. We offer confidential consultations for any servicemember or military spouse.

Legal Representation for Military Men & Women in California

We proudly work with people who are considering military divorce across California. Our office helps servicemembers, those married to a servicemember, and veterans of all branches of the military – Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard.

We encourage you to seek advice in navigating the challenging State and Federal regulations that apply when a divorce involves a servicemember.

Serving Divorce Papers to a Military Spouse

Divorces involving an active military servicemember are subject to both state and federal laws. Pursuant to the Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act, 50 UCS Section 521, any proceedings involving an active service member are temporarily suspended while on active duty and 60 days thereafter. Despite this Act, the servicemember can waive their right and move forward with divorce proceedings.

Requirements for military divorces in California are closely similar to that of civilian divorces “no-fault.”

Serving divorce papers to an active military service member must be done in compliance with California state law, being that service of papers must be done in person, or the spouse can sign an Affidavit of Service. Either of these must be completed for the California court to obtain jurisdiction over the matter.

These rules exist to prevent an active servicemember from defaulting in a divorce proceeding while on active duty. A default in a divorce case causes, by operation of law, the servicemember to forfeit their rights in the proceeding.

What State and County To File In for Military Divorce?

Determining residency can be difficult in military divorces with assets in many states and frequent relocation. The general rule is, you file where you live, but even that can be challenging if you and your spouse live in different locations.

To file for civilian divorce in California, one must have been a resident of California for at least 6 months and have been a resident in the county you plan to file in for at least 3 months.

For military divorce, this is not the case. Servicemembers who wish to file for divorce in California need only be stationed at a California base presently.

What does Tucker v. Tucker mean for me?

In the Tucker case, 226 Cal.App.3d 1249, a military servicemember requested the State court to rule that military retirement benefits were individual property and separate from the communal estate. On appeal, the court upheld that USFSPA provides service members the right to consent or not consent to jurisdiction over military retirement benefits.

The opinion states: “The [state] court found [the servicemember] did not consent to the [state] court’s jurisdiction over his military retirement…. under title 10 United States Code section 1408(c)(4), [the state court] had no jurisdiction over [the servicemembers] military retirement benefits.”

Due to nuances such as these, military divorces are incredibly technical and are best handled by a military divorce lawyer.

If marriage to a servicemember lasted for 10+ years, and the servicemember completed 10 years of active service, then civilian courts may have jurisdiction over servicemember retirement pay.

Mil Spouse Benefits and USFSPA

The 20/20/20 rule
A former spouse of military servicemembers are entitled to full military benefits, including lifetime medical benefits through TRICARE, commissary privileges, and access to military exchanges (PX/BX) if they remain unmarried until age 55:

  • The marriage lasted at least 20 years, and
  • The servicemember has at least 20 years of credible service, and
  • At least 20 years of credible military service overlap at least 20 years of marriage

The 20/20/15 rule
A former spouse of military servicemembers are entitled to transitional military medical benefits through TRICARE, yet no access to military exchange benefits or commissary privileges are included if:

  • The marriage lasted at least 20 years, and
  • The servicemember has at least 20 years of credible service, and
  • At least 20 years of credible military service overlaps at least 15 years of marriage

The 20/20/10 rule
In certain circumstances, former military spouses who have experienced and documented domestic abuse could be entitled to full military benefits and installation benefits if:

  • The marriage lasted at least 20 years, and
  • The servicemember has at least 20 years of credible service, and
  • At least 20 years of credible military service overlaps at least 10 years of marriage

Military Benefits for Children

Children of military members, including unmarried and stepchildren, retain full military benefits until age 22 or until the child marries, whichever occurs first.

Benefits for less than 20 years of service?

Former mil spouses of servicemembers with less than 20 years of credible service are not entitled to any benefits regardless of the duration of the marriage.

Support Exception for Military Divorces

Child support and spousal support in a military divorce are calculated almost the same as in civilian divorces. One exception is with military divorce, the combined support amount for both child and spousal support shall not exceed 60% of a servicemember’s pay and benefits.

Military Divorce Attorneys in San Diego

The divorce lawyers at Shorb & Connor APC understand your situation and the sacrifices made by military servicemembers and their families. Our military divorce attorneys are dedicated and committed to offering trusted advice when you and your children depend on an amicable outcome. We help you evaluate your options and protect your rights.

Let us assist you in navigating the requirements of State and Federal law while ensuring spousal support and child support obligations are fair and comply with all regulations.

If you have questions regarding benefits, marital property, and support, or dividing assets and liabilities, contact the family and divorce law firm of Shorb & Connor APC in San Diego at 858-771-9400 for your free and confidential consultation.