Military service members and their families often move throughout the world from station to station. When a military service member and their spouse are going through divorce, it is not uncommon for them to be separated by hundreds or thousands of miles because of deployment, TDY or other military responsibilities. It may also be the case that the non-military spouse is living in a state where they have been for only a short while.
The movement of military service members and their families can raise questions about how and where to handle the divorce. Does the individual on active duty have to return home? Can you file for divorce in a state where you are not currently living? How exactly does the divorce process work when both parties are not in the same jurisdiction?
Divorce filing location and timeframe
The laws regarding jurisdiction over a divorce, such as where the divorce can be filed, continue to apply to military families. There are, however, special considerations for how military service can impact jurisdiction and other divorce-related issues. These specialized rules are contained in the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA). This Act is designed to help judges deal with some of the unique situations that arise in military divorce matters.
One such issue is serving the divorce documents on a service member who is stationed overseas or in a remote location. Specific guidelines are in place to make sure a service member is not defaulted simply because they are not able to participate in court proceedings due to their military responsibilities. The non-military spouse must follow protocols that can include the Court appointing an attorney to explore the service member’s situation, or even pausing the divorce for a fixed period of time.
The SCRA also gives direction about where a divorce can be filed. In certain circumstances, it expands typical rules of jurisdiction to allow a divorce to be filed in a state the family is not currently living in to avoid a situation where there is no court available to handle the divorce.
Although the SCRA is designed to protect active duty service members, special protocols do not apply in every military divorce. Many divorce matters continue even when the service member is deployed or stationed far away.
Military divorce matters often involve issues that do not come up in other divorces. Everything from the pay structure, to the pension plan to the medical coverage is unique. If you are a service member, or you are married to one, it is important to find a family law attorney who has experience with military divorce and the SCRA.