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Divorcing A Spouse In The Military


Divorce is not easy for anyone. The entire divorce process is trying for all involved parties, their shared children and extended family. Making the transition to split is something that parties give a lot of thought and consideration. There’s no such thing as a clean break. It’s difficult to sell assets, the family home or vehicle, or divide shared property. But it can be even more difficult to divorce a spouse if they are a member of the military. Not only do additional rules apply, if one spouse is deployed overseas or elsewhere, the other spouse may not be able to file for divorce or legal separation immediately. 

Governing Law for Military Families 

The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, or “SCRA” was enacted in 2003. Its legislative purpose is designed to protect active-duty service members from unnecessary litigation. For example, if a servicemember has a simple contract dispute with a former landlord, is under fire for outstanding medical debt or is a defendant is involved in an action with his neighbor concerning an easement, the SCRA would go into effect to stay the action in the presiding court. Because servicemembers are away overseas or across the country on government business, they are not expected to drop everything to defend their interests in a local district or circuit court back in Florida. The SCRA gives military members the freedom to serve their country without fear they will be subpoenaed or remanded back home for a mandatory court appearance.  The SCRA also extends coverage to the military and their spouses to stay evictions, money judgments, installment debt actions or other civil suits. However, if a domestic violence case or divorce and custody hearing is pending against the service member, there are procedural methods to serve them a family law-related complaint. 

Special Considerations 

The SCRA states that a military service member cannot be brought to court on a civil matter while deployed, on active duty, or for two subsequent months after return from active duty. In addition, even if the servicemember is deployed overseas, the petitioner spouse needs to determine what court has jurisdiction over the marriage and therefore the pending divorce action. Usually the plaintiff should file an action in the county where the couple maintains a permanent domicile, is registered to vote, where their shared children attend public school, and so on. If the spouse of an active duty military member decides to file for divorce, he or she must adhere to procedural guidelines of the laws in their home state as well as the SCRA.  If the non-military spouse is filing a domestic violence action against the military spouse or is seeking immediate relief, he or she may be able to file for a bifurcated (limited) divorce, which would give the presiding court the power to order temporary financial assistance or child support to the plaintiff while a final divorce hearing is pending. 

In addition, determining equitable distribution of assets, finding new housing if the spouse and family previously lived on a base installation, and even division of military retirement benefits can be more detailed and complicated than a “typical” divorce action. The military spouse often gives up formal training and education to stay at home with shared children or “hold down the fort” while the service member spouse defends the country and is deployed elsewhere. Because of this, the other spouse is often a good candidate for alimony, even temporary, while they make the transition to a non-military lifestyle. 

Schedule a Consultation with Bubley & Bubley, P.A. 

If you or someone you know is contemplating divorce against a military servicemember, you need the assistance of a seasoned family law attorney. Our Tampa divorce attorneys at Bubley & Bubley, P.A. specialize in divorce and custody, including cases involving the military and navigating the SCRA. We represent clients throughout Tampa, Hillsborough and Pinellas Counties and can assist you in filing a divorce or custody action against your soon-to-be ex, even if they are currently engaged in active duty. Filing for divorce takes strategy, but even more paperwork and procedural requirements are entailed when divorcing a service member. Let us help you with this difficult process. Call our attorneys at Bubley & Bubley, P.A. to schedule a consultation.



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