Getting Divorced From a Spouse Who Is in the Military on Active Duty or Overseas: Special Considerations

Divorce is just as common among military families as in the civilian population, if not more so. Military couples face unique burdens, including the added stress of deployment and months, even years of separation. In many cases, these roadblocks are impossible to overcome.

Divorce can often be tougher for military couples because of the complexities of deployment; the physical and emotional rigors of combat; and the child rearing challenges that arise when one parent is far from home many months of the year, however a successful split is possible. Keep the following special considerations in mind as you pursue a military divorce:

Procedure For Delivering Divorce Papers
Military personnel are legally equivalent to civilians when it comes to marriage and divorce, so the procedural process for a military divorce largely mimics that of an ordinary split. The process is simply slower for an active duty member stationed overseas, particularly if he or she serves in a remote location.
Numerous laws protect military members from being held in default if they fail to respond promptly to divorce proceedings. This legislation protects those stationed overseas from being divorced without their full knowledge. According to the Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act, divorces can be postponed for up to sixty (60) days after the impacted military member returns from active duty.

Filing Requirements in Maryland
Maryland’s basic filing requirements apply to military couples. At least one spouse must reside in the state of Maryland or be stationed there at the time of the dissolution of the marriage. In a contested divorce, papers must be served. This can prove time-consuming if your spouse is stationed abroad. If, however, the divorce is uncontested, the spouse on duty can acknowledge the legal action by signing an affidavit.

Property Division and the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act
The Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act (USFSPA) governs the calculation of military benefits and their division upon divorce. The law gives states the authority to distribute military retired pay to former spouses. There is, however, no automatic entitlement to military-based retirement benefits.

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Do not underestimate the logistical, emotional and financial challenges of a military divorce. To cut through the confusion, work with a qualified Maryland family law firm that has significant experience handling these types of cases. Call DiPietro Family Law Group for a confidential, strategic consultation about your next steps.

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