Common Family Law Issues Affecting Military Servicemembers

DiPietro Law Group, PLLC

Military service can be hard on a family. The chance that a servicemember will deploy to an active combat zone depends on various factors, including the member’s military occupation, rank/grade, and service branch. The risk of sustaining a disabling or fatal injury is something that looms over many servicemembers and their families. Furthermore, moving around from assignment to assignment is hard on families. These concerns can have a substantial effect on family law issues, including property division, family support, and child custody.

How Service Impacts Jurisdictional Issues

An undeniable part of military life is the frequent relocations for permanent assignments, deployments, and temporary duty. Because military servicemembers are continually moving around, making an appearance in court for a legal proceeding can be extremely difficult, if not impossible. The danger of missing an appearance for family law court proceedings—such as post-judgment modifications and enforcement of family support obligations—is getting hit with a default judgment.

“Default judgments” are court rulings that automatically favor the party who showed up to a court proceeding. A party who does not appear before the court essentially has no argument against the party who appeared. Therefore, one can presume that the party who showed up automatically wins. Default judgments also help promote the urgency and seriousness of certain legal actions.

A party who wants to file a lawsuit against a military servicemember could time their filings that coincide with the servicemember’s orders to travel or relocate out of state. As a result, military members are vulnerable to default judgments.

To address this, the federal government enacted a law known as the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. Under 50 USC §§ 3931-32, legal proceedings against a military servicemember are stayed during periods where their military duties prevent them from appearing in court. Furthermore, the party filing a lawsuit against a military servicemember must include an affidavit determining the defendant’s military status.

Deployment and Child Custody and Visitation

State courts generally make child custody determinations based on factors related to the best interests of the child. For many states, a parent’s ability to provide a stable living environment for their child is a significant consideration when evaluating custody arrangements. Although there are many benefits for military dependents, frequent relocations and the chance of deployment can put servicemembers at a disadvantage when fighting for custody over a minor child.

To address child custody and visitation issues, some states have enacted legislation under the Uniform Deployed Parents Custody and Visitation Act (UDPCVA). The UDPCVA provides protections for servicemembers for custody hearings and guidelines regarding existing custody orders, caretaking plans, visitation, and child support.

Currently, only 14 states have implemented the provisions of the UDPCVA, including:

  • Arkansas
  • Colorado
  • Florida
  • Iowa
  • Minnesota
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Utah
  • West Virginia

Property Division and Family Support Issues

Issues regarding property division and family support payments can impact a servicemember’s retirement pay and Veterans benefits. Whether military pensions are subject to division upon divorce is a legal issue that depends on the specific laws of each state. However, under the federal Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act, divorcees of military members are entitled to certain benefits.

Consult DiPietro Law Group, PLLC for Quality Legal Advice

Are you looking for a qualified attorney to help you with family law issues involving a military servicemember or as a member of the armed forces? At DiPietro Law Group, PLLC, our legal team can provide you with quality legal advice about your family law concerns, backed by more than six decades of combined experience.

For an initial consultation with one of our esteemed lawyers, call us at (888) 530-4374 or contact us online today. We have offices in Annapolis, Fairfax, and Friendship Heights.
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