Being served with divorce papers is devastating to spouses, particularly if the news blindsides them. Those in the military are particularly shocked and face an uncertain future.
Similarities exist in military divorce versus a divorce not involving servicemembers, including legally ending a marriage in court, property division, and custody-related matters. However, distinctive differences are in place when it comes to proceeding with and securing dissolution.
When it comes to military pensions, specific rules apply on where the filing can occur and qualifying for a part of military pensions for the non-serving divorced spouse.
One common complication is spouses living in multiple places, potentially flying in the face of residency requirements by courts. Soon-to-be exes can choose the appropriate state, focusing on more favorable divorce laws. However, with military pensions in play, the service member needs to consent to the jurisdiction or one of the following factors:
- Legal resident of the chosen state
- Living in a state where a filing occurs for reasons other than military-related factors
Whatever state couples reside in, they must comply with laws governing community property versus equitable distribution of assets, along with regulations.
When to file
Filing while on active duty is a possibility. The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act accounts for this possibility and protects military spouses served with divorce papers without notice and in need of a response. Active-duty and other service members 90 days out of returning for deployment can request a stay due to the inability to respond due to military duties. In addition, the commander must confirm their inability to start proceedings.
Courts grant extensions to the stay to pause court proceedings when spouses in the military cannot participate due to their obligations. Simply put, It essentially stops proceedings until it is lifted.
Divorce is a life-changing and emotionally charged time for anyone, regardless of their occupation. Help from an attorney can help to even the odds military spouses face.