When a couple divorces while one or both partners serve in the military, it can create complications that civilian divorces never consider. If you or your spouse are active service members when divorce comes knocking, it is important to understand how the military may, or more importantly may not, affect the process or the outcome.

Serving in the military is an occupation and lifestyle unlike any other in our country. The chain of command is a powerful resource in many areas of both your professional and personal lives, and it is not always easy to recognize just where the boundaries on those relationships lie. Often, service members experiencing marital difficulty expect a superior to step in and levy authority to help resolve the situation. However, while serving in the military does give it the power to dictate many areas of you and your spouse’s lives, your divorce is not usually one of them.

In fact, your divorce is also one area where a military lawyer is possibly ill-equipped to help you, compared to certain civilian attorneys. Individual states grant and dissolve marriages, so an attorney who focuses on military law rather state-specific family law may struggle to provide accurate guidance and protection under the laws of the state where the divorce takes place. It is wiser to consult with an experienced civilian attorney in the state where you plan to divorce. With state-specific guidance by a local family law attorney who has an understanding of military divorce, you can confidently navigate the process while maintaining your duties to our country.

As you move through this difficult season, your military community will likely play an enormous role in your transition. Be sure that you take the time to understand the limitations of your chain of command as well as the specific complications and benefits your status as an active service member brings to your divorce. Don’t hesitate to reach out to the proper source for the guidance you need to achieve your divorce objectives and protect your rights and freedoms.

Source: The Balance, “Military Divorce and Separation,” Rod Powers, accessed Dec. 29, 2017