Military divorces have always been somewhat different than civilian divorces. After all, the pay the military member receives reflects not only their marital status but the number of children they have. There are unique child support and pension considerations for military members or their spouses.

There can also be conflicts related to housing, as military families tend to live on base, which can leave spouses of military members more vulnerable to homelessness or indigence. There is also the potential for someone to face military penalties if their spouse accuses them of infidelity during active duty.

There is yet another major difference between civilian divorces and military divorces that stems from potential violence between spouses. For a long time, battered spouses of military members had no real recourse for seeking justice, but that has recently changed.

Domestic abuse has recently become a military crime

Most people are already aware that civilian domestic abuse, which involves people who cohabitate or who share a marriage or other familial relationship physically assaulting or battering each other, can result in criminal charges if the police become involved in the situation.

For a long time, military members have often been able to avoid criminal consequences for domestic violence if they live on military property at the time when the alleged abuse occurred. Those individuals were subject not to civilian law so much as they were to military law, which did not hold military staff accountable for domestic abuse as its own crime. However, that has changed.

The defense authorization act signed into law last year includes provisions that make domestic violence its own crime according to the Uniform Code of Military Justice. That means that spouses who have experienced violence can seek a divorce and press charges in some circumstances.

Domestic abuse laws in the military will protect victims

Although there have been occasional prosecution’s of truly egregious cases, many domestic violence situations involving military members did not result in prosecution in previous years. More importantly, even in the rare case when someone did face charges, the charges were usually generic assault charges.

That means that convicted domestic abusers from the military wouldn’t wind up in the national database that tracks domestic abusers and prohibits them from purchasing a firearm. They could still purchase weapons that they could then later use to terrorize, injure or even kill a spouse or former spouse.

If you are in the military and your spouse has alleged domestic abuse as part of your divorce, you need to take immediate action. Spouses leaving behind an abusive partner will also need to take steps to protect themselves. Consulting with an attorney experienced in complex military divorces can help you decide what to do next.