Serving your country by enlisting in the military represents significant sacrifice. In addition to the risks they face as part of their service, men and women stationed overseas find themselves away from their families for extended periods of time.
Being a military spouse is difficult, especially when it comes to multiple deployments. Over time, the lengthy separation can unravel the tight-knit bond of marriage, resulting in a divorce action. For many deployed in various parts of the country, the timing of the filing occurs when they are on the other side of the world. While trying to perform their duties, they are isolated and forced to undergo a legally complex and emotionally charged process.
The impracticality of a military divorce while stationed in another country presents endless challenges. Proceedings occur in local courts in the United States. Limited resources exist where a spouse is stationed. Much-needed face-to-face support from family members is limited to Zoom and other technology. Jurisdictional issues and even finding an attorney serve as distractions from essential duties.
That is not to say that divorces for couples who are half a world apart are not possible. The process requires more steps before the marital dissolution is formalized.
For the spouse filing in the U.S., the action should be filed in the state they are currently living in, even if the ceremony took place in a different state. The standard residency time is 91 days. If children are part of the proceeding, they must live in the state for 182 days.
Resources are available
The first step for the military spouse is to notify command if only to take advantage of potential resources. They can also explore the option of the Early Return of Dependents (ERD) process as a divorce filing could qualify. Service members must show a valid reason for returning to the U.S. due to a problem that surfaced that they cannot resolve while being stationed overseas. The spouse living stateside can also pursue an ERD.
If an ERD is not an option based on financial or logistical issues, the divorce process can still continue with the service member providing e-files and appearing remotely.
Leveling the playing field
The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) can also provide a layer of protection for divorce proceedings. The option is particularly effective in cases where there is an “uncontested” divorce finalized without the service member being served properly and not able to respond in a timely fashion. It can also delay the marital dissolution process until they return home.
Military service is an honorable profession that can also wreak havoc on the strongest of marriages. The sacrifice of men and women in the armed forces should be lauded. When difficult issues arise while a service member is stationed on a continent far away, support from peers and family is paramount. The help of a skilled and experienced divorce attorney can help ease a complex process.