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Why service members should carefully choose where they divorce

A quick internet search of the requirements you must meet to file divorce will lead you to come across information about how long you must reside in a state and other eligibility criteria to do so. These requirements may not apply if you’re in the military, however.

States often have unique eligibility criteria that service members must meet to qualify to file for divorce. Service members and their spouses generally have three potential options when it comes to which state has jurisdiction over their divorce

How is it that service members may file for divorce in three states?

Members of the military can generally file for divorce in the state where they maintain a legal residence or find themselves stationed. Their civilian spouse can also initiate divorce proceedings in the state where they legally reside. That can be three different states, with three different sets of rules.

Why don’t waiting periods generally apply to military divorces?

There are many unique requirements, as mentioned above, that apply to service members’ divorces. One of those is that individuals in the military generally don’t have to endure a long separation before initiating divorce proceedings.

Special rules, including the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), also apply to individuals in the military. This federal law provides service members with a “stay” or reprieve in any family law case while on active duty. SCRA requires judges to give service members an additional 90 days following their release from active duty to respond to family law proceedings. Federal lawmakers enacted this law to minimize the distractions placed on service members during critical times, such as active duty. 

You may want to account for SCRA waiting period extensions when deciding where to best file for divorce.

What else should you know when filing for a military divorce?

There’s no such thing as federal divorce laws. Lawmakers in each state set their own. These laws dictate how judges should handle child support and custody, spousal maintenance and property division matters. You may want to consider each jurisdictions’ laws carefully when deciding where to initiate divorce proceedings. 

An attorney who is familiar with handling the dissolution of service members’ marriages can answer questions specific to your case and help you make the best decision. 

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