military man holding wife's hand

Where to File for a Military Divorce

Military divorces have their own set of complexities, distinct from civilian separations. With laws and regulations that uniquely pertain to service members and their spouses, understanding where to file for a military divorce is crucial. Examining the various factors that impact this decision can provide clarity and guide those facing this challenging process.

Military Divorce vs. Civilian Divorce: A Quick Overview

Military divorces involve specific rules and considerations not present in civilian divorces. While both types address issues like property division, alimony, and child custody, military divorces also factor in military benefits, deployments, and regulations under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA). Additionally, decisions about where to file and how pensions are divided can greatly differ, making it essential for service members and their spouses to be well-informed about these unique aspects.

Legal Factors: Jurisdiction and Residency

Jurisdiction, or the authority of a court to hear a case, plays a pivotal role in military divorces. For many civilian divorces, the process is straightforward: couples typically file in the state where they currently reside. However, service members often have multiple places associated with them, such as their domicile, the state of their official military record, and their current station. This can complicate the decision about where to initiate the divorce proceedings, as each jurisdiction can have differing laws and outcomes.

Domicile, on the other hand, pertains to where a person lives and intends to maintain a permanent home. For military members, establishing residency can be more intricate due to frequent relocations and deployments. While a civilian might simply claim domicile in the state they live in, a service member could claim domicile in a state where they maintain legal ties, even if they haven’t lived there for years. It’s important to understand these distinctions, as the chosen jurisdiction and residency can significantly influence the divorce’s outcomes.

Where to File for a Military Divorce

A military divorce can be filed in the following places: 

  • The state where the service member is currently living, usually linked to their stationing location. The individual must meet the state’s domicile prerequisites. For example, in Arizona, a domicile of 90 days is required before filing for divorce. 
  • The state where the service member maintains legal residency. This often corresponds with their home of record, even if they aren’t currently residing there but intend to return there after they leave active duty.
  • The state where the non-military spouse has established residency. In situations where a military couple resides in separate states, the divorce might be initiated in the state where the civilian spouse is located.

Impact of Where One Files for a Military Divorce

The jurisdiction in which you initiate the divorce can greatly influence the process. If you file in Arizona, you’ll be subject to Arizona’s specific divorce laws, including its no-fault stipulation. This eliminates the need to pinpoint blame on one spouse for the dissolution of the marriage; couples can simply claim their marriage is “irretrievably broken” as a valid reason for separation.

In addition, Arizona is a community property state, meaning that any property or assets acquired during the marriage are subject to equitable division (generally 50/50) upon divorce. The state also has specific laws concerning spousal support, child custody, and child support, which could lead to different outcomes compared to filing for divorce in another state.

Financial Considerations

Financial considerations in a military divorce extend beyond the typical concerns found in civilian divorces. One of the most notable financial aspects is the division of military pensions. These pensions, unlike standard retirement accounts, are governed by specific rules under the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act (USFSPA). This act allows state courts to treat disposable retired pay as marital property, thereby subjecting it to division during divorce proceedings. In addition, other considerations such as military benefits may come into play. The duration of the marriage, overlap with active military service, and other factors can determine a former spouse’s eligibility for continued benefits post-divorce. It’s vital to approach these financial matters with a clear understanding, as they can significantly impact both parties’ financial stability and future planning.

Benefits of Consulting an Arizona Family Law Attorney

Consulting an Arizona family law attorney offers important insights tailored to the unique challenges faced by military families in the state. These professionals are well-versed in both the intricacies of military regulations and Arizona-specific laws. Their expertise ensures that assets, benefits, and rights are protected, and they can provide strategic guidance to navigate the complex terrain of military divorces efficiently and effectively.

Get Help With Your Military Divorce

Understanding the intricacies of a military divorce requires specialized expertise. To ensure your rights, assets, and future are protected, it’s essential to have experienced guidance by your side. Don’t hesitate to contact Cohen Family Law; we’re here to provide the support you need throughout the process.