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Divorce during deployment: What you need to know

It’s unfortunate, but sometimes a servicemember or a spouse decides to get a divorce while on deployment. What are your options?

When contemplating a divorce, the first hurdle is the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), which protects members overseas on active duty from civil lawsuits over loans, leases and other legalities. The idea is to allow active servicemembers the ability to focus on their duties rather than problems on the home front.

Under the SCRA, legal proceedings are usually delayed during the tour of duty plus 60 days after the servicemember returns.

Where can I file for divorce?

Whether you are stationed overseas or in the U.S., you must file in your home state, or “domicile”. This does not necessarily mean the military “home of record”. It’s the place where you or your spouse qualify to vote, pay income taxes and get in-state tuition.

Once you know where you are established, then you can follow that state’s laws. Each state has different laws regarding divorce so you are better off consulting with an attorney in that state. This will give you a better idea of the divorce process; you might choose not to file for a divorce or you might choose to use another lawyer, but this initial consultation is a good place to start.

What if Im stationed overseas?

You can file for divorce overseas, but a U.S. judge does not necessarily have to recognize the legality of the divorce. Therefore, it’s smarter to file for divorce in your state of residence and do it the right way.

This will take some time – you will not only have to wait to finish your deployment but you will also have to wait while legal proceedings are started when you get back home. In the meantime, you can consider:

  • Alimony or spousal support, which will be discussed during divorce proceedings
  • Family support, which you are required to continue paying until a decision by a judge tells you otherwise
  • Division of property, which depends on the state in which you file for divorce. Different states have different laws regarding the division of property, which often includes family pets.

What happens when I or my spouse return from overseas

That’s when you can file for divorce in your home state. After filing at a courthouse, your spouse will be served with a copy of the summons and complaint. If all goes well, a judge may grant your divorce several weeks later. If all does not go well, a trial date will be set and a judge will hear your case.

Divorce when you or your spouse is deployed overseas is no easy thing. The best advice is to take your time, talk to a lawyer and consider all your options.

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