As a military spouse or parent facing divorce, you likely have many questions about the process. Is divorce handled in military court? Can you get divorced in Washington if you didn’t live there before joining the military? What federal laws apply to divorce for service members? The experienced attorneys at Morris-Sockle can answer all these questions for you.

Do I get divorced in military court?

As a member of the armed forces, you have rights and responsibilities under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. While there are other issues in life you may resolve through the military court system, divorce is handled in local civilian courts.

State laws control all aspects regarding the divorce of a service member unless a specific federal law or regulation requires otherwise. State laws determine parenting planscustody, visitation, child supportspousal support, and property division. Military lawyers (JAG Corps) may advise service members in legal matters but will not represent service members in a divorce. Private counsel is always required.

Where can I get divorced?

If you are a service member stationed at a military base in the state of Washington, your divorce can be heard in a Washington State court, but if you or your spouse are a resident of a different state your case can be filed in that other State. State courts must have “jurisdiction” over the parties before a divorce case can go forward. The Petitioner in a divorce action must be a resident of the State in which the divorce is filed unless the State has a special exception for service members stationed in the state.

Your divorce can be heard in Washington State if either party in the case is one of the following:

  1. A resident of Washington
  2. A service member stationed in Washington
  3. Married to someone who is a resident.

Why should I get divorced in Washington?

As a member of the armed services, you may have a choice regarding in which State you file your divorce. If you have such an opportunity, Washington state law offers many benefits you should consider. Unlike other states, child support is calculated based on a set formula using both parent’s income. Washington law does not default child custody to mothers. There is also a unique State law in Washington that allows members of the military to assign their visitation time to another person while deployed.

Important federal laws

Key Federal laws that control divorces of service members include: the Service Members Civil Relief Act, the Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act, the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and specific regulations within each branch of the armed forces.

Morris-Sockle attorneys advise and assist spouses and parents in the military going through divorce. We will help you understand how both Washington State and federal law applies to your divorce. You served your country and kept America safe. We are proud to stand by you in court. Call us today at (360) 866-7100 to speak with an attorney who understands the needs of military members.

If you would like more information on the divorce process for members of the military, please check out our free military divorce guide or contact our office to meet with an attorney about your particular circumstances.

Download the full guide here: Military Divorce Guide


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