Filing for Divorce in the Military

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Going through a divorce is never easy. The process can be even more complex when you or your spouse are in the military. Dealing with the complex legal system while juggling military duties and responsibilities presents unique challenges. We understand how stressful and overwhelming this time can be.

How to File for Divorce in the Military

When you decide to file for divorce, and you or your spouse are active duty military, you must follow specific procedures. While many aspects resemble a civilian divorce, federal laws and military regulations impact the process.

First, determine where to file. You can file in the state where you currently reside, where your spouse resides, or the base where you or your spouse live. If you recently moved due to a permanent change of station (PCS), you may still claim residency in the previous state.

Next, prepare and file the divorce petition with the appropriate court. The petition outlines your grounds for divorce and proposals for dividing assets, debts, alimony, and child-related issues like custody and support, if applicable. Even if they deploy, you must serve your spouse with copies of the filed paperwork. This sometimes requires more time and assistance from the court.

Your divorce may proceed as an uncontested or contested case. In an uncontested divorce, you and your spouse already agree on all terms. The court reviews your settlement and, if acceptable, grants the divorce. In a contested divorce, you and your spouse disagree on certain issues, requiring negotiation or possibly trial.

Throughout the process, stay mindful of special military considerations. For example:

  • The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) allows active duty members to postpone divorce proceedings.
  • Retirement benefits are governed by the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act (USFSPA).
  • Spousal and child support may hinge on deployment and housing allowances.

An experienced military divorce lawyer, like those at Higdon, Hardy & Zuflacht, L.L.P., can help you understand your rights and obligations. They will ensure you follow proper procedures and work to achieve fair outcomes.

What Happens After Signing the Divorce Settlement Agreement

After you and your spouse sign a divorce settlement agreement, you must submit it to the court for approval. The judge reviews the terms to ensure they comply with state and military laws.
If the judge accepts your settlement, they will issue a final divorce decree that makes the terms legally binding. You and your spouse must uphold your respective responsibilities outlined in the decree, such as:

  • Dividing property and debts
  • Arranging for sale of real estate
  • Setting up child custody schedules
  • Facilitating visitation if one parent deploys
  • Transferring titles on vehicles
  • Paying any ordered spousal or child support
  • Updating account beneficiaries

If your settlement involves military retirement pay as marital property, you need to submit additional forms to the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS). They require a copy of the divorce decree, special applications and service member affidavits.

Both spouses should also update their military records after the divorce is final. Inform your chain of command about the changed marital status. Update Next of Kin and emergency contacts. Change health insurance coverage if your former spouse no longer qualifies under your plan.

Adjusting to life after divorce is challenging for most military families. However, knowing your legal requirements can reduce stress. Rely on your lawyer’s guidance and contact military support services as you transition.

How Long Does a Military Divorce Take

Filing for Divorce in the Military image 2The time for a military divorce varies based on your location and specific circumstances. Uncontested cases with complete agreement on all issues tend to resolve faster. You may finalize it in a couple of months. Contested divorces with disputes over property division, alimony, custody, or support take longer. They may require 6-12 months or more to settle.

Several factors can prolong a military divorce. Deployment and active duty responsibilities may cause delays. Complex assets like retirement pay and international properties can complicate division. Spouses in different locations, especially overseas, extend timelines. Expect the process to stretch longer if you need the court to value pensions or order child custody evaluations.

In some states, the court can only grant a divorce once you meet separation requirements. For example, in North Carolina, spouses must live separately for at least one year before the court will finalize the divorce. Other states, like Alaska, have no required waiting period.

The surest way to streamline your military divorce is to cooperate as much as possible with your spouse. When you agree on major issues, you control the pace. You can often avoid lengthy court battles and resolve your case without undue delay.

Rely on a Skilled Military Divorce Lawyer

Filing for divorce in the military is tricky. Laws are complicated, and circumstances are stressful. You need a knowledgeable advocate on your side to guide you through the process. The military divorce attorneys at Higdon, Hardy & Zuflacht, L.L.P. are here to help.

Our legal team understands the intricacies of military life. We know how to untangle military benefits and protect your interests. With our extensive family law experience, we can anticipate obstacles and craft effective solutions. Let us take on all of the legal details so you can focus on the next chapter.

If you are a service member or military spouse considering divorce, do not face this difficult time alone. Call (210) 349-9933 or reach out online to discuss your situation and explore options with a caring, competent military divorce lawyer. We are here to provide the support you need.

Higdon, Hardy & Zuflacht, L.L.P. 12000 Huebner Rd #200 San Antonio, TX 78230 Telephone: (210) 349-9933 Fax: (210) 349-9988
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