In the United States, all divorces are ultimately controlled by state law. Whichever state you’re filing in will dictate the divorce law that applies. However, with military members, there can be specific jurisdictional issues and residency requirements when determining when and where to file the divorce. The Civil Rights Division is also enforcing the servicemembers civil relief actor SCRA - a federal law designed to ease financial burdens on servicemembers during periods of active military service.
The biggest difference between a military and civilian divorce is that in the former, at least one spouse is currently serving in the military. There can be military justice issues relating to the divorce. Common allegations can even include child abuse or adultery, which is a crime under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UMCJ). In any case, your divorce lawyer should be familiar with these allegations and terms.
In military divorces, there are additional considerations that most civilian family law practitioners are not so familiar with compared to those who have served in the military, or those that have chosen to devote a large part of their practice to military divorce cases.
For instance, there are specific regulations on how to divide a thrift savings plan. There are specific procedures on how and when to ensure the equitable division of a military retirement, which oftentimes, is the largest asset in someone's marital estate. The rules and regulations that go along with that are critical to an effective military divorce. Similarly, civilian divorces can also get tricky when big assets are involved.
Military divorces are different because deployments and temporary duty assignments (TDYs) have the potential to affect child custody considerations.
Additionally, military divorces are different because deployments and temporary duty assignments (TDYs) have the potential to affect child custody considerations. In fact, the state of Alabama has a specific statute that is meant to protect military members from having their service to this country harm their ability to raise their kids and be considered as a primary placement or sole physical custodian. Clearly, a military member involved in a divorce with these issues is going to need a very good military divorce lawyer to deal with the specific issues of deployments and temporary duties taking a military member away from their family. Many of these issues could be very important considerations in a divorce or child custody case.
If you are not familiar with these situations, you may not understand the difference between a TDY, a permanent change of station, or comprehend how hard deployments can be on a family. These intricate issues are the things that someone going through a military divorce needs their lawyer to fully understand. Likewise, these are the issues that can lead to a military divorce in the first place.
Filing a Military Divorce
To file for a military divorce (or a civilian divorce) varies state by state. In the case of Alabama, you file your complaint and allege the grounds, be it an irretrievable breakdown, which is “no fault” grounds, or you allege fault, such as adultery or cruelty.
After you have your spouse served, they have 30 days to respond. From that point, you go through the discovery period of depositions, interrogatories, requests for productions, and requests for admissions.
There is a statute that lists all the possible grounds for divorce in each state. The divorce process is similar to that of a civilian couple, but the technical terms will surely differ. It is highly advised to go with a trusted military divorce lawyer when filing such cases.