Military service can take a tremendous toll on marriages. As such, there comes a time for many married servicemembers when their partner wants a divorce. If this happens while you are deployed, you could be worried about what you can do and what will happen while you are overseas.
Whether the decision to divorce is a surprise or a long time coming, you should know about your options and rights.
Servicemembers Civil Relief Act protections
The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) protects active duty service members from having to deal with legal issues like divorce during deployment. Among other protections, the SCRA shields you from going to court for divorce.
In other words, your soon-to-be-ex generally won’t be allowed to resolve matters like child custody, spousal support or property division while you are away. While there are exceptions, like emergencies, in most cases, you may not have to do things like appearing at hearings.
The protections under SCRA extend 60 days after the end of your service. You may also file for an extension, giving you more time to respond to the filing. In civilian marriages, parties in Washington generally have 20 days to respond after being served divorce papers.
Having more time can allow you to:
- Contact and hire an attorney (which you can also do while deployed)
- Organize your financial records
- Meet with professionals like accountants and custody specialists
- Take an inventory of your personal property
Chances are, your ex has had plenty of time and opportunity to accomplish these same things already, so you would be wise to do the same when you return stateside.
Keep an eye out (within reason)
During deployment, you may not know what your partner is doing, who they are spending time with or what they are spending money on. This can make it easier for them to do things like conceal assets or move in with a new person.
Because these and other actions can affect your divorce, consider ways to protect yourself. You might talk to friends or family who know what’s going on or hire a forensic attorney. However, be careful not to cross the line. Do not stalk, harass or unlawfully surveil the other person, or you could face serious consequences.
A divorce filing during deployment can be highly upsetting and stressful. These tips can make this situation more manageable.