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Divorce during deployment: A military spouse's guide

Divorce can be hard enough without getting divorced when your spouse is deployed overseas -- but that's often a grim reality faced by spouses left stateside when their soldier spouse decides to end the marriage from a distance.

If you're the stateside spouse, what do you do next? Do you wait until your spouse comes back from deployment and try to get him or her to agree to counseling before you give up on the marriage? Do you go straight for divorce?

The best answer probably lies somewhere in the middle. Assuming that you aren't totally ready to give up on the marriage yourself and this is taking you somewhat by surprise, consider taking the following steps:

1. Get counseling for yourself. You need to have a firm grip on your own feelings before your spouse gets back off deployment. Counseling may make you decide you're actually ready to call it quits or it may just help you cope with the emotional overload you're currently feeling.

2. Start putting documents together. If your marriage is over, you need to have put together as many documents as you can in order to make the divorce process smoother. You need copies of all military papers, bank statements, deeds, car titles, support obligations for children or prior spouses and other regular expenses. Your job is going to be a lot easier if you put things together now, while your spouse is still deployed instead of waiting until he or she is home and you're locked in a battle.

3. Consult with an attorney who has experience in military divorce. Even if you aren't ready to give up on the marriage yet until you're able to look your spouse in the eyes, you need to consult with an attorney. An attorney will help you understand the divorce laws of the state you're currently in. If the marriage is really over, an attorney can give you an official start date for the mandatory separation period most states insist upon before granting even a no-fault divorce. You also want an attorney with military divorce experience because you may be asked to make complex decisions about military benefits that could affect your future for a long time.

An attorney can provide more information on how a military divorce affects issues like child custody and support.

Source: Military.com, "6 Steps Through A Deployment Divorce," Matthew R Hamel, Esq, accessed June 09, 2017

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