Family Law Is All We Do

Military Divorce in Michigan

Military divorces have certain challenges that do not exist in divorces in which there is no service member (or former service member) involved. 

  • The provision of the Servicemember's Civil Relief Act that is  most often used in military divorces, is the ability to stay (put on hold) legal proceedings when  military orders prevent a service member's ability to participate  in a case.
  • Our office has represented active duty military members, retired military members, active duty military members' spouses (and former spouses),and retired military members' spouses (and former spouses) in all areas of Michigan Family Law.
  • Many questions are asked of our office that specifically relate to family law in Michigan and how military service can impact family law issues. The most frequent of these questions are answered below.

Attorney Ellen Paynter can help you.  CONTACT our office to discuss your matter.

What state has jurisdiction over a military divorce?

Although it may be possible to file for divorce in the place where one is currently stationed, a service member can keep residency in his or her home state (the state that he or she resided in prior to going active duty). 

  • For the purpose of filing divorce in Michigan, residency for a service member is established by
    • keeping a Michigan driver's license,
    • having your LES indicate Michigan,
    • voting in Michigan,
    • owning property in Michigan,
    • paying taxes in Michigan, 
  • Your choice of residency can have a significant effect on your case. 
    • Although you may have been stationed in Virgina for the last year, you may wish to file for divorce in Michigan to avoid the lengthy waiting period for a divorce required in Virginia. 
    • In order to make that decision, you will need to consult with an experienced Military divorce attorney in both Michigan and your current location to see what is best for you.

However, even if you have residency for the purpose of filing Divorce in Michigan, it is possible that Michigan may not have jurisdiction over the minor children in order to address issues of custody, parenting time or child support. 

  • Jurisdiction over minor children will be determined by the UNIFORM CHILD CUSTODY AND JURISDICTION ENFORCEMENT ACT (UCCJEA).  (SEE OUR UCCJEA PAGE).
  • Our office has handled bifurcated divorce cases for service members where the divorce is handled in Michigan (due to the service members not wishing to wait the lengthy waiting periods in the states they were stationed), but the custody, parenting time and support are handled in the children's home state.

Attorney Ellen Paynter can help you.  CONTACT our office to discuss your matter.

How does being a service member affect child custody and parenting time?

Due to service members are not in control of where their orders will take them, they can be  required to move at any time. 

  • The service member's spouse may chose not to move with them, or may choose to move to another location. 
  • If you are reassigned to a base in another state and wish to bring  your children, it impacts the other parent's custody and visitation  rights. You may be required to seek permission from the courts.
  • Also, when service members are deployed, they are generally unable to spend any parenting time with their children.
  • This can affect  your right to parenting time in the long-term when they return. 
  • If you do not get a specific temporary custody order before you are deployed, you may put your child custody and parenting time rights at  risk.
  • Proper planning can protect your rights to child custody and  parenting time.

Attorney Ellen Paynter can help you.  CONTACT our office to discuss your matter.

How are child support and spousal support difference when a military member is involved

Generally, spousal support and child support calculations are based on a totality of a service member's actual pay, including:

  • housing allowances,
  • salary enhancements,
  • COLA and
  • special pay.

Attorney Ellen Paynter can help you.  CONTACT our office to discuss your matter.

Don't we have to be married 10 years before my spouse share in my military retirement?

Generally, members of the  armed forces must serve for at least 20 years to gain military retired  pay. 

  • Both state and federal laws control how a military pension is to be divided. 
  • The Defense Finance and Accounting Service will only divide and pay a  portion of the benefits directly to the civilian spouse if you have been married for at least 10 years during this 20 year period.
  • However, Michigan courts can order a military spouse to pay the other spouse a portion of their military pension each month, even if you haven't been married 10 years, and even if it is not paid directly by the Defense finance and Accounting Service.

So, the answer is No.  Even if you have been married for less than 10 years, your spouse can be awarded a portion of your military pension.

Attorney Ellen Paynter can help you.  CONTACT our office to discuss your matter.

Why should a service member hire an attorney?

Often our office is contacted by JAG lawyers and commanding officers for service members for information about Michigan family laws. 

  • Although Judge Advocate General's Corps (JAG) lawyers can help a service member by providing general information about  divorce, JAG generally does not provide state specific information, nor does JAG represent service members in their divorce case.

Attorney Ellen Paynter is experienced in representing  service members in our armed forces and their families. 

  • Our office has represented military members and their spouses stationed throughout the United States, Europe, Asia and the Middle East. 
  • If you are stationed or living with your military spouse outside of the state of Michigan, our office can consult with you by phone, by Skype or by email, accommodating the time difference for your location
  • Once you retain our office to represent you in your matter, our office will keep you informed about  your case by email and will scan and email you all correspondence and pleadings.

Attorney Ellen Paynter has more than fifteen years of experience in divorce and family law representing both service members and their spouses. 

Paynter & Associates

Main Office

7071 Orchard Lake Road

Suite 245

West Bloomfield, Michigan 48322

Satellite Office

100 West Big Beaver Road, Suite 200

Troy, Michigan 48084


Phone 248-851-7555

Fax 877-877-7955



SKYPE available upon request


Weekdays:  9am to 5pm.

Early Morning: By appointment only.

Evenings: By appointment only.

Weekends: By appointment only.

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