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Military divorce and your privileges as a civilian spouse

Whether you are in a civilian marriage or a military marriage, the frustration and pain when your relationship is in trouble are universal. Certainly, you and your spouse have your own unique issues, and many of those may stem from your partner's work, but the struggles you face — money, communication, in-laws — are common to many couples.

Being a civilian spouse in a military marriage, you may have many concerns if your marriage is approaching divorce. Even though the personal issues you face may be similar to other marriages, a military divorce has some unique differences. If you approach your military divorce as if it were just another civilian divorce, you may deny yourself important rights and benefits.

Military ID privileges

While your spouse's military commander has no authority over your divorce, the federal government has established certain protections, both for your partner as a service member and for you as a civilian spouse. Overall, the military will treat your divorce as the private matter it is. However, the military will honor certain advantages you have earned as the spouse of a service member.

For example, your spouse has no right to deny you the military ID card that provides you with access to medical care, commissary benefits and all other privileges on base. In fact, to do so is considered larceny. Once your divorce is final, your ID card becomes invalid unless the following circumstances exist:

  • You and your spouse have been married 20 years or more.
  • Your spouse served in the armed services for 20 years or more.
  • The time during which you were married overlaps your spouse's service by 20 years.

If your marriage overlaps your spouse's service by only 15 years, you qualify for a one-year extension of medical benefits but none of the other benefits of an ID carrier.

Housing and other concerns

One of the common issues to resolve in a civilian divorce is who gets the house. If you and your military spouse live in military family housing, you do not have to make that decision. Unfortunately, because military regulations forbid civilians from living on base without a service member residing with them, you will have to vacate the on-base housing. You will have 30 days from the time you separate to make this move.

You may have other critical decisions to make that could affect the direction of your life for years to come. It is essential to have the counsel of a civilian attorney who is knowledgeable and experienced in handling military divorces in Pennsylvania.

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