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Filing for Divorce in the Military

Filing for Divorce in The Military

Divorcing a spouse is often complicated. However, it can be particularly complex if at least one member of a couple is also a member of the military. Special protections and laws may apply in such cases. Being aware of them can help you better prepare for a divorce.

How to File for Divorce in the Military: Special Considerations

Typically, when you file for divorce, the laws of the state in which you reside will govern the process. Filing for divorce when at least one spouse is in the military is different. Consider the circumstances below before filing for a military divorce.

How the SCRA Protects Against Default Judgments in Military Divorces

The Servicemember Civil Relief Act (SCRA) offers protections to certain military members that may apply in the case of a divorce. The SCRA applies to the following members of the armed forces:

  • Active duty Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard members
  • Reserve component members when serving on active duty
  • National Guard component members mobilized for more than 30 days due to federal orders
  • Public Health Service or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration active duty commission members

One protection the SCRA offers to servicemembers is protection against certain types of default judgments in civil cases. This may be relevant if a spouse refuses to cooperate when receiving an official notice of your plans to divorce them.

In many states, if a spouse simply ignores a divorce notice or otherwise acts as though the divorce isn’t happening, the other spouse can request a default divorce. That’s often not an option when a spouse serves in the military.

A military spouse can request a “stay” of the divorce process. This pauses the process for 90 days. A military spouse may request a stay to allow them time to participate in a divorce. After the 90 days, the military may allow the stay to continue but is not required to.

Regardless, obtaining consent from a spouse is often necessary in a military divorce. Getting a default divorce because a spouse doesn’t participate in the process is not easy (and often not possible) when the SCRA applies.

Determining Residency in a Military Divorce Can Be Complex

a divorce lawyers and couple sitting at a table signing papers

You need to file for divorce in the state where you legally reside. Knowing what that state is can be a complex matter when you or a spouse is in the military.

Members of the armed forces often move. Additionally, per the SCRA, a military member can keep their home state as their legal state of residency, even when they are stationed in a different state. On top of that, a spouse who doesn’t serve in the military can claim their legal state of residence is the same as that of the military-serving spouse, even if they don’t live in that state.

There are various ways you may determine what state you need to file for divorce in when you or a spouse serves in the military. Options include:

  • Determining what state you file taxes in
  • Determining what state issues your most recent state-issued ID
  • Determining what state your financial accounts are in

Check your tax and ID documents. They should help you identify the state where you should file for divorce.

How Long Does a Military Divorce Take?

Many factors can influence the length of a military divorce process. It’s often possible to settle military divorce cases in two to four months. However, if a spouse isn’t cooperative, it could take years to negotiate a fair divorce settlement.

What Happens After a Divorce Settlement Agreement is Signed in a Military Divorce?

The specific developments that may ensue after signing a divorce settlement agreement will depend on the agreement’s details. That said, it’s essential to understand that a signed divorce settlement agreement doesn’t make a divorce official, nor does it make the terms of the agreement legally binding. A judge must review the agreement and first sign an official divorce decree.

The terms of a divorce settlement agreement become enforceable once this happens. You can take legal action if an ex refuses to comply with them.

Contact a Divorce Lawyer

You don’t have to navigate the process alone when filing for divorce in the military. With the help of a qualified divorce attorney, divorcing a spouse when one or both of you serve in the military can be easier than you might assume. At The Law Office of Andrew A. Bestafka, Esq., a New Jersey divorce lawyer is on hand to offer the legal assistance you need right now. Learn more about what our firm can do for you by contacting us online or by calling us at (732) 898-2378 today.

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