A military divorce is one in which one or both spouses are in the military or have retired from the military. These cases are often more complex than other divorce cases in our area and may therefore require the assistance of a seasoned legal professional. Let an Alpharetta military divorce lawyer from our firm assist you throughout this process to make sure it is completed thoroughly and in accordance with relevant deadlines.

What Differentiates Military Divorces from Civilian Divorces?

There are many special elements to an Alpharetta military divorce which differentiate it from a civilian divorce, including:

  • The federal Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), which protects active duty servicemembers from default divorce orders and allows a servicemember to request a “stay” of the proceedings;
  • The federal Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act (USFSPA), which secures rights for ex-military spouses;
  • Regulations within each branch of the Armed Services which dictate that servicemembers must continue to support their family financially during divorce proceedings and afterward;
  • The Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS), which can garnish military base pay, retirement. and even veteran’s disability payments in some circumstances to pay for family support obligations; and
  • During wartime a divorce proceeding may be postponed for the entire time an active servicemember is on duty and up to 60 days thereafter – unless the servicemember desires the divorce and waives this right.

How to Begin a Military Divorce

Aside from the actual divorce forms, from the very beginning a military divorce is somewhat different. If one spouse decides to divorce while the servicemember is deployed, the deployment itself can count toward the mandatory waiting period. The SCRA allows servicemembers to choose which state they will file their petition in.

If they choose to file in Alpharetta, they must prove residency, be stationed at a base there, or claim the “domicile” principle by showing intent to reside there and actions taken to do so. A deployed servicemember must be served in person regardless of their location, unless they join the divorce suit by signing an Acknowledgment of Service and Consent to Jurisdiction.

Once served, the deployed respondent can request a stay to the proceedings for up to 90 days, or the court may order a delay, and no final order modifying parental rights and responsibilities will be entered by the court until at least 90 days after the deployment ends. Both the servicemember and the spouse can make use of free legal assistance on base to help with divorce paperwork, for mediation services, and to receive referrals to civilian divorce lawyers.

Custody and Parenting Schedules for Military Parents

Regarding minor children, Alpharetta courts understand the nontraditional child custody and visitation issues involved with military families. State law dictates what active servicemember parents must cover in their parenting plans, including who will care for the children when the servicemember(s) is/are deployed.

In addition, a single-parent servicemember, or any servicemember who shares custody of minor children with another active-duty servicemember, must file a Family Care Plan with their commanding officer within 60 days of the divorce. The court order will take precedence, though the two should be more or less in consonance.

Making Modifications

In ordinary civilian divorces, the parents have to wait two years to revisit a court-ordered parenting plan, unless there is a significant change in family circumstances, such as a relocation or a relapse to severe addiction, etc. Military parents, on the other hand, have to file a petition for a new, temporary parenting plan each time the active servicemember parent is going to deploy. These orders are considered temporary and will not replace the original, non-deployment parenting plan, unless the parent returns and both parents agree that the temporary order was a better fit.

Such regular parenting plan modifications require court hearings each time. In the event that an active servicemember is about to be deployed, the court can bump their hearings to establish or modify parenting plans right to the top of the court calendar. If there still is not time to finalize the couple’s temporary divorce orders in court prior to deployment, then the couple can be ordered to attend mediation, arbitration, or another form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) to make sure their issues get resolved.

Potential Outcomes for Military Divorces in Alpharetta

A civilian spouse will lose their installation housing upon divorcing their military spouse, but the Government may pay the cost to move the non-military spouse home from overseas with the children and property before the servicemember’s tour of duty ends. The civilian spouse can also request that the servicemember’s retirement pay (as calculated at the time of divorce) be divided equitably as marital property.

Furthermore, a spouse who can prove the “20/20/20 rule” (20+ years of marriage, 20+ years of active duty, overlapping for 20+ years) can keep their military ID card and continue to enjoy the benefits of health insurance, discounts, the commissary, and exchange (unless they remarry). Even if the marriage and active duty overlapped for only 15-20 years, the civilian spouse can keep their health insurance for a year. In any case, former spouses can apply for up to 36 months of continued health care benefits through Tri-Care or Humana.

Regardless of the circumstances of your marriage dissolution involving one or more military members, one of our attorneys can help you reach a favorable outcome. Our Alpharetta military divorce lawyers are familiar with all the legal requirements and deadlines associated with these cases and ensure yours hits the mark. Call us today to learn more.

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