How Does the Divorce Process Work in the Air Force?

Divorce can be a challenging process for some because it involves issues related to your family and money that can create confusion about your rights and obligations. The challenges of divorce can become increasingly complex for members of the Air Force because of additional rules and other logistics. Here, you can learn more about divorce and the unique issues that Air Force members may encounter during the process.

A General Overview of Divorce in the State of Washington

Divorce begins with one or both spouses filing a petition to a local family court where they reside. The petition may also make requests related to the divorce (e.g., child custody or spousal support).  After you or a spouse files a petition, you then begin the process of establishing temporary and final terms of the divorce. 

You may be able to agree to terms through negotiations and attorney representations without much court intervention. Alternatively, some issues may require an order from a court if you and your spouse cannot agree. Obtaining a court order on certain issues may involve hearings, giving testimony, and other aspects of a trial. In general, the issues you will have to negotiate in a divorce are:

  • A distribution of marital property and debts (Washington is a community property state which creates certain presumptions about assets and liabilities acquired during marriage) 
  • Awards of spousal support
  • Child custody/visitation arrangements and child support (in Washington this is known as a Parenting Plan)

The complexity of reaching a resolution on the issues related to a divorce will depend on several factors. These factors include the relationship between the spouses, the nature of their assets, and the needs of their children. The divorce process generally ends with a settlement agreement or a court order establishing terms.

Issues Specific to Getting a Divorce in the Air Force

The process of getting a divorce in the Air Force is not much different from the steps described above. However, being a member of the Air Force may create additional questions and requirements when it comes to accomplishing those steps. 

You Still File a Divorce Petition in Civilian Court

As a member of the Air Force, you still file a divorce petition in a civilian court. Usually, this will be the local state court where you or your spouse reside. However, Washington also allows service members who are stationed within the state to use its local courts to process a divorce. 

Managing Air Force Divorce Proceedings While Deployed

Another issue that can complicate a divorce in the Air Force is your deployment. As mentioned, the process may require court appearances and other obligations that are impossible while deployed. Failing to appear before a court or take other actions can lead to negative consequences for you and your family (i.e., default judgments). Thankfully, the Service Members Civil Relief Act (SCRA) may provide you with some protections if your service prevents you from appearing before a court. An attorney can help you assert your rights under the SCRA while handling a divorce from afar. 

Financial Support During the Air Force Divorce Process

The Air Force (and other military branches) impose minimum financial support requirements for its members during a divorce. Each branch has its own unique formulas and calculations for determining the support owed. For those in the Air Force, the calculation is a pro-rata share of your non-locality basic allowance for housing. However, a state court order may replace or override the Air Force requirements for financial support. 

We Proudly Represent Members of the Armed Forces in Divorce Proceedings

Divorce Lawyers for Military is a network of Washington attorneys with experience handling divorce matters for those in the Air Force and other service branches. Your divorce can be an emotionally draining experience. Having experienced legal counsel representing your interests may help you identify your goals in divorce and help you arrive at outcomes that align with those goals. 

Contact our office today for help navigating a divorce as a member of the Air Force.

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