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What do you stand to lose if you divorce a service member?

Divorce can be a complicated, consuming, and overwhelming process. A whole other level of complication is added to the process when one of the spouses getting divorces is a civilian and the other is a member of the military. You, as the nonservice member may be at risk of losing your on-base housing and identification (ID) card once the divorce has been finalized.

Military ID cards are the property of the United States government. They cannot be arbitrarily confiscated simply because military personnel becomes aware that a service member is divorcing their spouse. If a military person takes away their spouse's military ID card, they can be charged with larceny under Article 121 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

The civilian spouse will generally lose their military ID and associated privileges when their divorce is finalized. There are two exceptions to this rule though.

Civilian spouses may not lose their military benefits if they've been married to their service member spouse for at least 20 years at the time of the divorce.

Nonmilitary husbands and wives may also be able to retain their benefits if their armed forces spouse is at least a 20-year veteran eligible for retired pay. The couple's marriage and military service must have some overlap though. If there's only a 15-year overlap between the marriage and military service, then the civilian spouse will only be entitled to one year of medical benefits from the date the divorce was finalized.

As for military housing, it's specifically issued to military members. Service members are expected to share it with their family members including spouses and/or dependents. A military member does not have the authority to evict either party from their on-base living accommodations. If a domestic dispute occurs, then the service member spouse may be ordered to go and reside in the dormitory or barracks.

Ending your marriage to a service member is not a standard type of divorce. Although all couples who seek out a dissolution of their marriage here in Ohio must abide by the same state laws, there are both federal and military statutes or procedures that play a role in these instances as well. An attorney in Hamilton can help you navigate through the web of confusion when civilian and military laws become entangled.

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