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The legal issues with military divorce, Part 1

In substance, military divorces are no more or less complicated than civilian divorce. You are confronted with different forms of income which can confound some attorneys who are unaccustomed to those income items but by and large, the issues are similar. But, military laws and regulations do subject service members to some peculiar procedural issues. This post will go over those differences.

Civilian divorces are purely creatures of state law. State law determines where the divorce can occur, how the assets are divided, and how child custody matters are resolved. Conversely, military members’ divorces are governed by state and federal law. Federal law determines (1) where the divorce can take place (and thus which state law controls) and (2) how military pensions are divided.

Preliminarily, active-duty service members who are on duty and deployed cannot be served with divorce papers while they are on duty and (at the discretion of the court) for 60 days after they return. But, they can continue through the divorce if they are deployed. The purpose of this law is to allow the military members to focus on defending the country, rather than on their personal disputes at home.

Before a court can take any action in a matter, it must have jurisdiction. Jurisdiction means that there are sufficient connections between the parties, the issues, and the court to allow the court to take authority over the matter. For military personnel, the jurisdiction is usually the place where the person holds legal residence (which may not necessarily be their current billet). Most military members’ legal residence is the state in which they signed up for the military or the state in which they designated their legal residence after joining the military.

If you are trying to obtain a divorce and you an active-duty service member, you should contact a lawyer for assistance. As illustrated above, military personnel are subject to several oddball rules that can significantly affect your divorce proceedings, including where it can be held. You don’t want to waste your time litigating a divorce in the wrong court only to get it dismissed. A lawyer can ensure that you comply with the rules and receive a divorce as soon as possible.

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