Military Divorce

Navigating Military Divorce in California

You’ve spent years married to your military spouse, but now the relationship is ending. Divorcing as an active duty service member in California presents unique challenges. Navigating the complexities of child custody, visitation rights, and spousal support becomes even more intricate with military involvement.

As a military couple undergoing a divorce in California, it’s essential to grasp how state laws uniquely impact your circumstances. The federal Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) offers protections for active duty personnel, including the potential suspension of legal proceedings, which may prolong the divorce process.

Consulting with an attorney knowledgeable in both the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act and California military divorce laws is crucial. Family law attorney Ms. Sahar Maknouni has extensive experience in military divorces and can help you understand how state laws affect your situation. With her expertise, you can navigate this difficult period and protect your rights, ensuring a smoother transition. With appropriate legal counsel, navigating a military divorce in California can be more manageable. Being informed about your rights, seeking tailored advice, and engaging with experts familiar with military divorce nuances can help secure a stable future post-divorce.

Jurisdictional Challenges in Military Divorces in California

Navigating jurisdiction in a military divorce in California can be complex. Due to the nature of military assignments, service members may be stationed across different states or overseas, complicating the determination of which state has the authority to handle the divorce, including decisions on property division, spousal support, and child custody.

Typically, jurisdiction is established in the state where the military spouse claiming residency is stationed. If both spouses are in the military, jurisdiction usually lies in the state where they last resided together as a couple. Factors such as where the service member votes and pays taxes are also considered when determining residency.

Child custody and visitation further complicate jurisdictional issues. The court with jurisdiction over the divorce also rules on custody and visitation arrangements. Given the possibility of military relocations, courts may issue temporary custody orders that adapt to changes in the service member’s stationing. The engagement of the non-military parent plays a critical role in these decisions.

For spousal support, the initial jurisdictional court decides on the appropriateness and specifics of support. Should the military spouse relocate post-divorce, it may necessitate modifications or termination of spousal support, taking into account the non-military spouse’s potential for self-sufficiency.

Factors Influencing Child Custody in Military Divorces

Navigating child custody during a divorce can be particularly complex for military families in California. The court must take into account how the unique demands of military life, such as deployments and frequent relocations, might affect the children involved.

Military spouses often have concerns that the court might bias custody decisions in favor of the civilian parent. However, California mandates that judges focus on the best interests of the child, regardless of a parent’s military status. This includes evaluating the child’s age, their bond with each parent, and the potential for maintaining connections with extended family and community support systems.

Although military obligations can complicate co-parenting arrangements, courts acknowledge that military families are capable of providing stable and nurturing environments for children. During deployments, temporary custody modifications are common to preserve service members’ parental rights, with the possibility of extended visitation periods post-deployment to compensate for any absence.

In cases where it’s deemed in the child’s best interests to primarily reside with one parent, the non-custodial parent generally continues to participate in significant life decisions for the child. Both parents, irrespective of custody status, are usually obligated to contribute to child support.

For military personnel dealing with divorce and child custody, it is crucial to seek advice from a family law attorney who is well-versed in these matters. An experienced attorney can guide you through your rights and help develop a strong case to support your child’s welfare during this challenging time.

Spousal Support Considerations for Military Service Members in California

In California, the calculation of spousal support in military divorces involves unique complexities. For active duty service members and their spouses, income and benefits differ significantly from those in civilian roles, influencing both the decision to grant spousal support and the amount.


Military compensation frequently includes variable income such as bonuses, hazard pay, and housing allowances, along with the base salary. Courts examine the historical earnings of the military spouse to assess their earning capacity, adjusting for any impacts deployments or relocations might have had. This evaluation helps establish a fair estimate of ongoing income for spousal support calculations.


Military personnel receive substantial healthcare and retirement benefits. Under the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act, spouses married for at least ten years during active service retain certain benefits post-divorce. The court considers the value of these benefits in spousal support decisions. Conversely, loss of access to these benefits post-divorce could result in a higher spousal support award.

Child Support Considerations

Children’s welfare is paramount in divorce proceedings. Although child support is determined separately from spousal support, the financial allocations for each can influence the other. Courts strive to balance fairness between spouses while prioritizing the needs of the children. If a significant portion of the military spouse’s income is allocated to child support, this may reduce the available funds for spousal support.

Navigating spousal support in a military divorce in California requires understanding several intricate factors. Consulting with a family law attorney experienced in military divorces, Ms. Sahar Maknouni, is crucial. An experienced attorney can evaluate your specific circumstances, provide insights into likely outcomes, and assist in negotiating a just agreement.

Dividing Military Pensions and Benefits in California Divorces

Dividing military pensions and benefits during a divorce in California involves complexities, particularly for active duty service members or veterans. Pensions and healthcare form integral parts of your compensation, and the division process varies, especially if both spouses served in the military.

Single Pension Division

Typically, if only one spouse served, the military pension is considered community property and is usually divided equally. However, the military does not directly split the pension. Instead, the service member compensates the ex-spouse based on the proportion of the pension accrued during the marriage. For instance, if the marriage overlapped with 15 of the 20 years the pension was accrued, the ex-spouse would be entitled to 75% of the pension benefits corresponding to those 15 years.

Dividing Multiple Pensions

The process becomes more intricate when both spouses have their pensions. Each pension’s value must be assessed, and portions are allocated according to the duration each spouse served during the marriage. For example, if Spouse A accrued a pension over 10 years, half of which were during the marriage, and Spouse B accrued a pension over 20 years, 10 of which were while married, Spouse A would be entitled to 50% of their pension and Spouse B to 50% of theirs.

Healthcare and Additional Benefits

Military healthcare, notably Tricare, extends benefits to ex-spouses and children after divorce. Eligibility for Tricare can continue for up to 20 years post-divorce. Other privileges, like base and commissary access, typically cease upon divorce, although certain benefits may be negotiable in the divorce settlement.

Given the complexity of dividing military pensions and benefits, consulting an attorney experienced in military family law is crucial. Ms. Sahar Maknouni can offer essential guidance, ensuring you fully understand your rights and helping negotiate a fair distribution of pensions, healthcare, and other benefits in the divorce settlement.

Client Reviews

My attorney Sahar did an excellent job in obtaining the results I wanted! Collaborating with this firm through my challenging divorce was truly eye-opening. Being in the military, my top priority was to preserve a meaningful bond with my children amidst the demanding nature of my deployment...

Jon P.

I was impressed by Sahar's strategic approach to my complex divorce case. She was always ahead of the game, anticipating moves and countermoves, ultimately leading to a very satisfactory outcome for me. I highly recommend Sahar to anyone dealing with family law challenges, thanks to her...

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Going through a divorce with young children was my biggest nightmare. Attorney Maknouni not only helped me navigate the legal process smoothly but also ensured my children's best interests were at the forefront of every decision. Her sensitivity and professionalism were truly commendable.

Jessica H.

Sahar is a great lawyer, who knows how to handle cases both in and out of court. From our first meeting, I felt assured and understood. She navigated through my divorce proceedings with incredible professionalism and efficiency, ensuring a fair division of assets and custody arrangements that were...

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