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Some differences between civilian and military divorces

Photo of Karen Lavin

This blog mostly focuses on civilian divorces. But civilians are not the only people who go through divorces; so too do many servicemembers. For our men and women in uniform the divorce process often looks similar to civilian divorces. But, at the same time, the process has some important wrinkles. To learn more, read on.

Most of the wrinkles arise because of federal law, which has much more to say about military divorces than civilian ones. For one, Congress has passed the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. The Act prevents the spouse of an active-duty servicemember from initiating divorce proceedings. The prohibition can continue for up to 60 days after active duty has passed.

Another difference is jurisdiction. Jurisdiction is legal speak for whether a court has the authority to hear a case. If it has the authority to do so, it has jurisdiction; if it does not have that authority, then it does not have any jurisdiction. If a court decides a case when it does not have jurisdiction, the decision is not valid.

In civilian divorces, generally only courts in the place where the spouses live have jurisdiction to hear the divorce case. But in military divorces, courts where the servicemember has legal residence can hear the case even if the servicemember is stationed on the other side of the world.

Yet another difference is where to file the divorce papers. Spouses of servicemembers generally have extra options for where to file. These include filing the state where the servicemember legally resides, the state where the servicemember actually resides and the state where the spouse resides.

To learn about other differences, Illinoisans may want to speak with an experienced divorce attorney.

Source: FindLaw, "Military Divorce," Accessed Oct. 13, 2015

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