military divorce

Special Concerns for Military Families During a Divorce

Anyone going through a divorce faces many emotional and legal difficulties. If you or your spouse is a member of the military, the divorce process is even more complex. It can take more time, and there are special rules related to notification, court appearances, and filings. 

These extra steps help ensure that an active-duty service member is allowed the opportunity to participate fully in the divorce process despite the unpredictability of military life. Unfortunately, they can cause delays that can be emotionally and financially difficult for both spouses and their children.

From military benefits to the division of property, an experienced attorney can help guide you through the entire process. At Bentley, Kopecki, Smith, P.C., we help military families stationed worldwide negotiate and finalize divorces filed in Pennsylvania.

Our experienced family law attorneys have worked with soldiers, veterans, and spouses of veterans through all aspects of separation and divorce proceedings. We understand the unique concerns of initiating, negotiating, and finalizing a divorce when one party is still serving in the military. 

Military members have to deal with traditional divorce concerns as well as legal concerns specific to military members. By law, sometimes military benefits and pensions must be split with spouses. Our divorce attorneys will make sure you understand your rights and options when it comes to the following rules governing military divorce:

  • Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA)
  • Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act (SSCRA)
  • Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act (USFSPA)

Where to File for Divorce and Why It Matters

Service members and their spouses may file for divorce in several different jurisdictions. These include:

  • The state where the service member is currently stationed.
  • The state where the service member claims legal residency (often their state of residence when they entered the service) and pays state income taxes.
  • The state in which the nonmilitary spouse resides.

Notably, the state where the parties were married does not have jurisdiction for a divorce without one of these qualifiers.

Choosing where to file for divorce matters for a few reasons. The requirements to obtain a divorce vary significantly from state to state, as does the way property is divided and support allocated between the parties. Some states require a long waiting period, legal separation, or other steps before either party can file divorce papers. In many jurisdictions, the parties must attend multiple court hearings in person; this should be considered when deciding where to file, especially if one or both parties must travel to that location.

In some circumstances, the court will reduce or waive procedural requirements for active-duty service members (such as requiring in-person attendance at non-substantive status hearings). In other cases, a “power of attorney” may need to be established so a legal representative can appear for court matters on your behalf. Our attorneys can help with this process and ensure that both service members and their spouses are appropriately represented. 

Deployments and Separations

In Pennsylvania, no-fault divorces can proceed by mutual agreement of the parties. They can also proceed over the objection of one spouse if the parties have been separated for more than a year. For many military families, long separations are common, and whether a period of deployment or other absence is a “separation” for contested divorce proceedings may be an issue. An attorney can help you evaluate your situation and advise you on how to proceed.

Filing for divorce while a spouse is deployed or on rotation overseas adds significant difficulty to the proceeding. Although it is generally inadvisable, sometimes, it is unavoidable. Our attorneys understand the additional requirements for properly serving and pursuing a divorce while one spouse is stationed overseas, deployed, or on assignment.  

Helping You With Your Military Divorce Issues

With over 30 combined years of legal and practical experience, our lawyers have helped many individuals through the military divorce process. We will guide you through the process, from child custody and support to the division of assets. We are grateful to the soldiers and spouses who serve our country and help ensure our freedom and safety. We strive to help you manage the difficulties of navigating a divorce along with the unpredictability of military life.

In addition to helping our military clientele through the divorce process, our family lawyers can help establish wills, , living wills, health care powers of attorney, and durable powers of attorney for our clients to help protect their legal interests when they are away serving. Talk to our team about how we can help protect your family and you, whether you are at home or abroad. 

Whether you contact us online or step into our Wyomissing, Lancaster, or Lebanon offices, you will speak to someone who will lend a sympathetic ear and measured counsel. All we do is family law and criminal law, so contact us today for a free initial consultation. Call 610-624-2268 to speak with a member of our team.