What Are the Specifics of a Military Divorce in CA?

Divorce is complicated especially for military members and their spouses. From property division to child custody and financial support, military spouses may encounter unique challenges that others may not face. Keep reading to learn more about military divorce in California.


Typically, divorce petitions are filed in the district and at the court where the original marriage license was issued. However, for military spouses this may be difficult. In many cases, the petition can be filed in the state where the military spouse is stationed regardless of their legal residency status.

Alternatively, a divorce petition may be filed where the military member holds residency or where their spouse lives. However, regardless of which option spouses choose to take, it is important to recognize that this decision could have implications for property division. For example, if a spouse chooses to file out-of-state, they may not have the authority to divide the military member’s pension.

Military Benefits

One of the most important and complicated aspects of a military divorce involves military benefits. Military personnel receive pensions for their service. The Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act allows ex-spouses to benefit from pensions during a divorce.

The USFSPA exists to protect miliary spouses financially during divorce, and can protect the division of miliary benefits per California’s property division laws. It is important to note that there are no universal divisions of military benefits. The court will determine the amount of funds awarded to the spouse based on the total amount of funds in the pension and other factors. Spouses may draft their own agreement for dividing the pension or litigate the issue in court. Nonmilitary persons can receive the pension in some cases.

In general, while there are no universal rules for the division of pensions, the 10/10 rule may apply. Essentially, if spouses have been married for 10 years and the military spouses served at least 10 years, the spouse can receive their share from the Defense Finance and Accounting Service or through assets or property in an amount equivalent to their share.


Alimony is spousal support and can be complicated especially when considering military benefits and pensions. In general, alimony is granted to the spouse who would be most impacted by the loss of income from a partner. Alimony is intended to support the spouses so they can maintain a standard of living equitable to their standard of living during marriage.

The court may choose to divide benefits as part of an alimony agreement, but entitlement to receive support via military benefits or pensions can vary depending on the duration of the marriage and duration of military service. As mentioned previously, if the spouses were married for ten years and the military member served for at least 10 years, the non-service member could be eligible to receive a portion of those benefits.

It is also important to recognize that each branch of service has different rules for alimony and entitlement.

Child Custody

Child custody for military spouses functions in much the same way as civilian divorce cases. The exception being that the court must determine how much, if any, child support to award based on the total value of military benefits and other earnings. Custody may be granted to the military spouse if the court deems them the most optimal parent, but visitation may be complicated if the servicemember is deployed oversees or out of state.

Navigating the Complexities of Military Divorce

If you are a servicemember or married to one and are seeking a divorce, you must contact a qualified attorney. Cutter & Lax, Attorneys at Law has extensive experience with military divorce cases involving servicemembers from every branch of the military – Army, Navy, Coast Guard, Air Force, and the Marines.

When you need dependable, trustworthy legal counsel backed by experience, contact Cutter & Lax, Attorneys At Law.