What happens when a military couple divorces in North Carolina?

If you or your spouse is in the military and you choose to divorce, you will file for divorce in the state in which you live. If you claim North Carolina as your home, you will have to prove it as your domicile (e.g., by showing that you paid taxes or voted in that state).

Military courts don’t handle divorce proceedings. However, certain federal laws influence the divorce process when members of the military want to divorce. Here are a few things you should know about divorce law in North Carolina and the special rules surrounding military divorce:


As a member of a military partnership, you may have questions about what happens to your benefits in the event of a divorce. Under a provision of the Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act, retirement pay will be divided by the state in which you file divorce. The USFSPA also spells out exactly what other benefits—such as healthcare, commissary and exchange privileges—a non-military spouse will receive in a divorce. To receive full benefits, a non-military spouse must pass the “20/20/20 test”, which translates into an answer of “yes” to the following three questions:

1.Was the non-military spouse married to the military member for at least 20 years?

2.Did the military spouse serve in the military for at least 20 years?

3.Was there at least 20 years of overlap between the marriage and the military service?

Dividing of property

One note-worthy aspect of North Carolina divorce law is that in order to get a divorce, you are not required to first determine how to divide property. The union can be nullified, and hearings to determine property division may take place afterwards. However, it is critical to understand that you must file for equitable distribution before you are divorced. Otherwise, under North Carolina law, your right to equitable distribution will be destroyed once the divorce is granted.

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