Ending a marriage is a challenging process regardless of the circumstances, as any divorce lawyer will tell you. Throw in being an active member of the military, though, and that adds a couple more layers of complexity to the process. Let's examine how military divorces are a bit different from other ones.
Federal laws interact with state laws when it comes to divorces in the military. The key legislation governing this part of the process is called the Uniformed Services Former Spouses' Protection Act. It addresses questions about how the military will address child and spousal support, pensions, military pay and other factors in a divorce. In particular, the USFSPA empowers the military to treat retirement pay as marital property to be divided rather than income. Consequently, retired military pay can be awarded as divided property on top of support.
State of Residence
The laws governing divorce are usually dictated by the primary state of residence for the couple. As you might imagine, this can be a little tricky when dealing with military deployments, especially overseas. Federal rules allow parties to a divorce involving at least one service member to have greater flexibility in determining which state is their residence. That gives a bit more power to the filing party because they will be positioned to shop for a venue, and you'll then have to contest the matter if you don't want to deal with a particular state's laws.
Availability of Legal Assistance
Service members and their spouses may have access to legal assistance through the military. Notably, these assistance services can only provide guidance. They can't represent you before a court of law, and you will have to hire a military divorce lawyer to present your case. Also, they're not allowed to advise both sides, and many people choose to forgo them for this reason.
Time to Respond
The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act is designed to take some of the legal sting out of being deployed. In particular, it's normal for a party being served papers to be required to respond within a limited time period or face a default judgment. Service members can seek a stay under the law to postpone pending actions and hearings until they have time to deal with them.
Generally, the U.S. military does not recognize divorce documents from other countries. If your case involves a proceeding from overseas, it's best to submit a new filing in a U.S. state court.
To learn more, contact a military divorce lawyer like Karen Robins Carnegie PLC.