Learning your spouse wants a divorce is even more shocking when you are served the divorce papers while deployed in the military. What you need to know.
Being Served With Divorce Papers While Serving Your Country Can Be a Devastating Blow
Given the many practical and emotional challenges U.S. service members face while stationed far from home, being served with divorce papers while deployed can be a particularly devastating blow. Unfortunately, finding out that your spouse wants out of your marriage while you are out serving your country is not an unusual occurrence.
Military Divorce Rates Are Almost Double The National Divorce Rate
According to the website LendingTree, United States service members experience one of the highest divorce rates nationwide. The study reveals that approximately 3.09% of service members who were were married in 2019 divorced that same year – a figure nearly double the national divorce rate of 1.6% for non-service members.
Understanding why divorce rates are higher for service members is not difficult. Sudden and repeated deployments and relocation, complicated benefit programs, housing, insurance, and VA matters are stressful enough.
The risks and sacrifices involved in serving our country are stressors that can fracture even the most resilient marriages. When that happens, and military couples decide to divorce, both spouses must navigate a new set of unique issues.
Navigating a military divorce is something no soldier, sailor, airman, or Marine should do without the guidance of an experienced military divorce lawyer who recognizes the difficulties of military life before, during, and after a divorce.
If you’ve been served with divorce papers while deployed, you have unique rights, but you need to understand and exercise those rights quickly to avoid the negative consequences of inaction.
Understand The Laws Governing Military Divorces
Military divorces can be much more complex than those involving civilian spouses. One fundamental difference between how divorces work in the military and how they work for civilians relates to the law that governs the process. Colorado law applies to divorces for civilians in the state, but military divorces involve both Colorado and federal law.
The federal Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act (“USFSPA”), which applies to all military divorces, provides that law and procedures of the state where the divorce proceeds will apply to matters such as child support, custody, and visitation, spousal maintenance, and asset distribution.
But because of the complexity of military benefits and the practical hurdles of moving forward with divorce papers while deployed with a divorce while a service member is deployed overseas or in another state, specific federal statutes and military regulations also are involved in Colorado military divorces.
Additional Information: How Does Divorce Work in The Military?
You Have The Right To Put Your Divorce Proceedings On Hold While Deployed – But You Must Take Action
The Service members Civil Relief Act, or SCRA, is what protects the legal rights of members of the armed forces while deployed, including their rights during divorce proceedings. SCRA protections apply to active duty members, reservists, and National Guardsmen who have received a call for duty lasting more than 30 consecutive days.
Given the practical difficulties of participating in a divorce while deployed on active duty, the SCRA allows service members to request a 90-day stay of divorce proceedings while deployed or until they can respond if they meet the following criteria:
- The applicant is in military service or within 90 days after it ended;
- The applicant has actual notice of the proceeding (meaning they have been served with divorce papers while deployed);
- The application is in writing and includes facts stating how military service materially affects the applicant’s ability to appear, and a date when the member may appear; and
- The application includes communication from the service member’s commander that military duty prevents the applicant’s appearance and leave is unavailable.
The initial 90-day stay is mandatory in the State of Colorado. An El Paso County judge can extend that period if circumstances warrant (such as deployment), which means that a divorce could be on hold for several months before moving forward.
Retain a Civilian Divorce Attorney Who Understands Military Divorce As Soon As Possible
After being served with divorce papers while deployed, your very first step should be contacting a civilian divorce attorney located in the State where the papers were filed. Specifically, you need a family attorney with experience with the unique legal and practical issues involved in military divorces. Even seasoned divorce attorneys may not know how to navigate the complexities of military divorce if they don’t regularly handle these matters.
For years, I have worked with active and retired service members as well as civilian spouses up and down Colorado’s Front Range to help them reach fair and equitable resolutions that allow them and their families to move forward to the next chapter of their lives with clarity and confidence.
Served With Divorce Papers While Deployed In The Military?
As an experienced military divorce lawyer, respect and professionalism are cornerstones of my practice – and no more so than when serving those who have served our country or their spouses who have also sacrificed so much.
If you are a member of a military family going through the transition of divorce, the experienced military divorce lawyers at Perkins LawI welcome the opportunity to assist you.