Military Divorce Vs. Civilian Divorce in New York: What’s the Difference? 2024

If you are a member of the military or are married to someone who is, it’s crucial that you understand the difference between a military divorce vs. civilian divorce in New York. This is not only because military service members are typically held to a higher standard when it comes to their civil conduct but also because laws can become complex. The team at the Trotto Law Firm, P.C., can help you better understand military divorces in New York today.

Residency Requirements for a Military Divorce

Every state in the country has its own residency requirements that must be met in order to successfully process a divorce. Typical residency requirements include requiring one of the divorcing spouses to be a resident of the state and to have lived in the state for a certain period of time. For service members, this residency requirement can be difficult because they are forced to relocate from time to time as they are stationed in different areas.

The state of New York waives the residency requirement for service members. A service member can file for a divorce in New York if their primary residence is in the state, regardless of how long they have lived there or whether or not they are a resident of the state.

How Long Do Military Divorces Take to Settle?

A military divorce can take much longer to finalize than a civilian divorce. The reason for this is that military divorces are protected by the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. The purpose of this act is to protect active-duty members from the burdens of civil litigation issues like divorce. The intention is for active duty servicemembers to remain focused on their tasks without the need to return home for civil issues.

The act allows servicemembers to file extensions and, in some cases, even block the courts from conducting a final ruling on their case until they are able to be present. For spouses who are expecting a quick military divorce, their expectations may need to be adjusted accordingly.

Child Custody Laws in a Military Divorce

A key item to note about child custody is that custody will be awarded to the parent who displays the ability to meet the basic needs of a child. This is true in both military divorces and civil divorces. No matter the type of divorce, a judge in a child custody case will always choose what is in the child’s best interests. Because most active military members spend time away from home, the parent who stays behind is often awarded custody.


Q: Is a Military Divorce Different from a Civilian Divorce?

A: A military divorce is different from a civilian divorce. Military divorces are governed by the Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act. This act provides military retirement benefits, assets and liabilities, and military pension considerations for divorcing military spouses. The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act also allows divorcing military members the opportunity to file extensions and prevents courts from making final rulings until the spouse can be present.

Q: Is the Military Divorce Rate Higher Than the Civilian?

A: The military divorce rate is higher than the civilian divorce rate. Military marriages end in divorce more frequently than civilian marriages because of several different factors. Some of the most common factors contributing to this divorce rate are the financial hardships that military marriages can go through, infidelity, heightened stress and anxiety, and deployment. However, there are a variety of issues that can impact a military relationship.

Q: Is Military Legal Separation the Same as Divorce?

A: A military legal separation is not the same as divorce. One key difference between a military legal separation and a civilian legal separation is that military marriages have to abide by the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). The UCMJ is a set of rules that punishes service members who commit offenses such as adultery, which is why a servicemember who violates it during their legal separation could face the consequences.

Q: What Are the Different Types of Divorces in New York State?

A: There are a few types of divorce in New York. There can be a contested divorce, an uncontested divorce, and a collaborative divorce. A contested divorce occurs when the divorcing spouses cannot agree on fundamental issues such as child support or property division. In an uncontested divorce, spouses agree on all of the critical issues within the divorce proceeding. A collaborative divorce occurs when both spouses utilize mediation to resolve the divorce.

Q: How Do You Serve Divorce Papers in a Military Divorce?

A: To serve divorce papers in a military divorce, you can serve them at the base where the spouse is stationed. The divorce papers must be served by a third party that has no vested interest in the marriage and is over the age of 18. If you believe the divorce will be uncontested, then you could have a military member sign an affidavit of service which eliminates the need for a summons. If the divorce is contested, then the spouse could reject the serve and request a stay.

Legal Representation for Military Divorces

Anyone who is going through or has gone through a divorce can understand how difficult a situation it is. Not only is a marriage ending, but a family is being disrupted. There are several important topics that must be finalized in any divorce, such as child support, child custody and visitation, spousal maintenance, property division, and many other things. This list can become even longer for military divorces.

Jonathan C. Trotto at Trotto Law Firm, P.C., has ample experience in helping divorcing couples amicably resolve their divorces and any other legal ramifications that come along with it. We have experience aiding individuals across the state of New York. By working with our legal team, you can focus on moving on with your life while we handle the legal aspects of the divorce. Contact our office today to see how our team can support you.

Let’s Begin Our Legal Partnership Today

Contact Us

Contact us today using our consultation form below:

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.