For civilian marriages, the chances of a divorce are about 50 percent for a first marriage, but for military marriages, the divorce rate is said to be even higher. Why are service members at such a high risk of divorce? Much of it has to do with extended periods of time these couples can be separated. When spouses are separated for months at a time, they are at a higher risk of “disconnecting,” but another issue is the increased chance of infidelity on either spouse’s part. Although the procedures for military and civilian divorces are the same, there are some unique conditions that you’ll need to be aware of when divorcing an active duty military spouse.
California Military Divorce in California: The Basics
If you’ve been a resident of California for six months and a county resident for three months, you can file for divorce in California by filing a “Petition for Dissolution of Marriage” with the county superior court. Your military spouse does not have to be in the state when you file. California law, however, requires that the non-filing spouse is notified of the proceedings regardless of where he or she is stationed.
California state laws will govern your military divorce, however, there are certain military regulations and federal laws that will apply to your divorce. A lawyer from our firm can assist you with the following issues:
- Child custody
- Child support
- Spousal support
- Income taxes
- Military retirement pay
- Servicemembers Civil Relief Act
- Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act
Do Service Members Have Special Rights?
If you’re a service member, you may have concerns about deployment, responding to your spouse’s divorce petition, being able to attend court dates, child custody, dividing military retirement, etc. For starters, the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act protects servicemembers’ legal rights in a divorce when they are serving on active duty.
In a traditional divorce, a spouse will file for divorce and the divorce papers will be served upon the other spouse, and he or she will have a certain time limit to “respond” to the divorce. However, that’s not always feasible for service members who are overseas while they are on active duty. Under the Act:
If the service member is unable to attend a court proceeding because they are on active duty, the administrative proceeding can be postponed.
Service members have legal protections against “default divorces” because of their failure to respond to the divorce. Service members can also be protected from the consequences of failing to appear because they are abroad.
Contested Divorces in the Military
Federal law makes delaying military divorces easier for active duty service members, especially when there are contested issues of the divorce. The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act allows active duty service members to delay certain civil proceedings, including divorce, for 90 days or longer. This allows service members to postpone the divorce process when their service, particularly overseas, prevents them from participating in the proceeding.
Military Divorces As Civil Matters
While there are certain legal protections afforded to service members, it’s important to note that for the most part, the military believes that divorces are private, civil matters that are handled in the civilian courts, not the military courts. Whether you are the service member, or you’re married to a service member, you will both need separate attorneys to advise you and ensure you both receive the independent and confidential advice needed.
Summary dissolution is a quick and simple way to get a divorce when the divorce is uncontested. To qualify for a summary dissolution in California, you have to meet certain requirements, such as being married for five years or less, have no children, possess minimal assets and debts, and neither spouse is seeking alimony. If you qualify, both spouses complete, sign and file a Joint Petition for Summary Dissolution. A spouse deployed overseas can sign the petition and any other necessary forms then return it to the other spouse by mail who then files the joint petition on their behalf after adding her signature. Two self-addressed stamped envelopes, one for each spouse, must be included with the petition.
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