Military service members who engage in divorce proceedings must navigate several unique situations. They must deal with emotional, financial and legal concerns that run the gamut from custody issues to dividing a pension.
Also, while state laws govern most divorce procedures, military rules and regulations could impact some factors.
The limitations of military legal assistance
Military One Source describes some of the benefits and limitations of getting assistance from a military installation’s legal assistance program. The services, which come free for service members and eligible family members, provide information on divorce, child custody and other pertinent issues.
However, this aid does not extend to a presence in the court system. Military legal assistance attorneys cannot draft specific court documents nor can they appear in court. Any complex divorce proceeding that involves matters such as contested child custody, child support or division of assets will likely require a civilian attorney.
The provisions of the SCRA
For service members on active duty, the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act offers several legal protections. The act allows for a postponement of court proceedings due to a person serving in a distant location.
This comes into play when one spouse enters a divorce request that requires a response in a specific time frame. The SCRA grants protections on default judgments or failure to appear in person at a trial.
Overseas divorces for military personnel also complicate matters. For many military couples, filing for divorce in the U.S. remains the best option. Service members often have a choice of three options on where to file: the state of the service member’s military installation, the state of residency or the state of the spouse.