How does Washington law address family law issues for military families?

Understanding Military Family Law in Washington State

Family law issues are often complex, but for military families, they can be especially challenging. Washington law provides specific provisions and considerations for military families navigating family law matters such as divorce, child custody, and child support. Recognizing the unique circumstances of military service, Washington State has implemented legal frameworks to address these issues with sensitivity and fairness.

Divorce Proceedings and Military Service

In Washington State, the same general principles of divorce apply to both civilian and military families. However, the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) offers additional protections to active duty military members. For instance, the SCRA can postpone divorce proceedings while a servicemember is on active duty and for up to 60 days following their return. This ensures that military duties do not unfairly disadvantage servicemembers in divorce proceedings.

Child Custody Considerations

When it comes to child custody, Washington courts must consider the best interests of the child. For military families, this includes recognizing the impact of deployment on a servicemember's ability to fulfill custodial roles. The state allows for temporary custody modifications during deployment, ensuring that the child's care remains consistent and that servicemembers' rights are preserved upon their return.

Child Support Adjustments

Military service can also affect child support orders. Washington law allows for potential adjustments in child support due to changes in a servicemember's income or duty status. Understanding that deployments and other military obligations can alter financial circumstances, courts may revisit and revise support orders to maintain fairness for all parties involved.

Historical Context

The evolution of family law as it pertains to military families in Washington has been influenced by historical precedents such as the Uniformed Services Former Spouses' Protection Act (USFSPA). Enacted by Congress in 1982 after the landmark case McCarty v. McCarty, the USFSPA allows state courts to treat military retirement pay as property rather than income, which can be divided upon divorce.


Washington law strives to balance the demands of military service with family law obligations. The state's legal system adapts traditional family law principles to accommodate the unique circumstances faced by military families, offering protections and considerations that uphold both service members' responsibilities and family interests.