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Military Divorce


In general, divorces are governed by state laws. Where you file for divorce will determine a great deal, such as how long it takes, what it costs, how property is divided, and how alimony and child support are determined. However, when one or both spouses are in the military, different rules apply because of the special circumstances to which military personnel are subject. In addition, since service members work for the federal government, there are some federal laws that can affect the final terms of a military divorce. If you are dissolving a marriage while serving in the armed forces and living in the Atlanta area, you can seek guidance from the family law lawyers at the Law Offices of Thomas C. Rowsey. We welcome the opportunity to work with those who serve our country in the U.S. armed forces.


In addition to special federal laws that may apply, most states have slightly different divorce laws for military personnel. States try to accommodate armed services personnel out of respect for the duty they perform for our nation’s defense, and out of recognition that military jobs frequently involve special circumstances. For example, military personnel are transferred frequently and at short notice to different military bases all over the country and even in foreign countries. They may be deployed overseas for combat and may be absent from home for many months at a time. Under these circumstances, it is difficult for military personnel to meet the procedural requirements and deadlines that are set up to handle normal family law matters in state courts.

From the outset, states usually specify that a divorcing party must meet a certain period of residency in order to file for divorce in that state. Consequently, in Georgia, the only residency requirement is that the service member or his or her spouse either reside in Georgia or be stationed in Georgia at the time the divorce papers are filed.

In addition, there are provisions to protect military personnel from being held in default for failure to appear or respond, since their schedules are often beyond their control. An active duty spouse must be personally served with a summons and copy of the divorce papers in order for a Georgia court to exercise jurisdiction, unless the service member waives this right. Pursuant to federal law, a Georgia court can postpone divorce proceedings for the entire period during which an active service member is on duty, and up to 60 days after that time, although the service member can waive the postponement.

While some divorce laws are the same for both military and non-military individuals seeking divorce, there are also other protections in place for military personnel. For example, although standard child support [link to Child Support page] worksheets and schedules are utilized to calculate the amount of support that must be paid by a service member, child support and spousal support (alimony) together may not exceed 60% of the service member’s pay.

There are also special federal laws regarding the division of a military member’s retirement benefits. Although a spouse may be entitled to a portion of a service member’s retirement pay, the amount that a spouse may collect in divorce is governed by federal law, and certain requirements must be met in terms of the length of military service by the service member and the length of the marriage. Moreover, state law may further limit the amount of a military pension that a non-military spouse may collect.


These are just some of the special rules that apply to a military divorce. Before you begin this process, you should understand the impact of both federal and state statutes. If you need advice or representation for dissolving a marriage in Atlanta or the surrounding communities, contact the divorce attorneys at the Law Offices of Thomas C. Rowsey. You can reach us at (770) 993-5317 or use our online form to set up a free consultation. We serve individuals across Georgia, including in Milton, Johns Creek, Alpharetta, and Roswell.