Getting divorced involves making lots of decisions and coming to agreements with your soon-to-be former spouse. Child custody, spousal support, property division and visitation are among the issues you’ll have to determine. And when you’re a member of the military, things can become a tad more complicated.
Both federal and state laws come into play when military members divorce. State law can impact child support and spousal support, for instance. Federal laws can affect the jurisdiction that hears the divorce case and the division of military pensions.
Before divorce proceedings can begin for members of the military and their spouses, jurisdiction must be determined. That means it must be concluded which court has the authority to rule on the divorce. In civilian divorces, that is typically where the person lives.
But with the traveling nature of military service, it isn’t that simple. The jurisdiction could be the place where the couple has established legal residence, even if the military member is stationed at a post in another location. To divorce in Georgia, one of the spouses must have lived in the state for at least 180 days before taking any action to file. That means a spouse stationed in Georgia could file in the state, even if the spouse lives elsewhere.
In general, however, a divorce involving at least one service member can commence in the state where the spouse filing for divorce lives; the state where the military member is stationed; or the state where the military member is a legal resident.
The laws of whichever state is chosen will apply when it comes to child custody, property division and such.
There are some special protections granted to military members who are divorcing or involved in any civil court action, in fact. The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act allows active duty military members to apply for a temporary stay to allow them to continue their work serving the country without interruption.
Military pensions are divided based on the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act, which gives states the right to determine the formula. Other federal laws apply to pension benefits that consider how long the spouse was on duty and how long that service overlapped with the marriage.
This is just a brief overview of military divorce. If you or your spouse are serving the nation, an attorney with experience in military divorce can assist. There are special considerations.