Factors that Can Impact Alpharetta Military Divorce Cases

A military divorce filed in Alpharetta uses the identical forms, child support worksheets and schedules, legal authority, and courts as all other Alpharetta divorces. By law, the petition must establish jurisdiction and residency requirements, indicate whether there are any children, name the grounds upon which the petitioner is requesting a divorce, and declare financial intentions such as alimony, child support, or division of property.

Either party may request a jury trial for appropriate portions of the divorce settlement, such as property division and child support. Defenses to a divorce petition are the same as in other civil divorces as well: the servicemember can challenge the jurisdiction or venue, object to the service of process, or assert that the petitioner failed to state an actionable claim, etc.

While all of the procedural elements are identical between civilian and military divorces, there are certain, unique factors that can impact Alpharetta military divorce cases. For this reason, it is advisable to work with a seasoned divorce attorney who is familiar with the challenges that many military couples face when dissolving their marriage.

What Role Does Geography Play in Military Divorces?

Divorcing military spouses can be stationed anywhere in the world at the time their petition is filed. Since the U.S. does not always recognize foreign divorces, it is important that the servicemember file for divorce in one of the 50 states. However, which state is a matter of choice to some extent. The military designation “Home of Record” does not necessarily qualify as residency. A military divorce can be filed in:

  • A state either spouse actually resides in;
  • The state that the servicemember is stationed in; or
  • A state in which either qualifies as a “resident” by virtue of owning property, holding a driver’s license, voting, paying taxes, or expressing the intent to reside there.

Regardless of where the divorce is filed, either spouse can object to the jurisdiction proposed by the petitioning spouse.

Military Housing

Active servicemembers often live on military bases. If a servicemember moves out of base housing during the divorce proceedings, the non-military spouse may lose their housing privilege within 30 days or may remain until 30 days after a final divorce decree is entered, depending on the branch of the military. Military families divorcing overseas may be able to rely on the Government to pay for the spouse and children’s return to the States with their property, so long as this is done before the servicemember’s tour of duty ends.

Being Stationed Overseas

Finally, courts in the U.S. have determined that merely being stationed overseas is not sufficient by itself to meet the standard of “materially affecting a servicemember’s ability to defend the action.” In today’s world where overnight jets and remote communications are ubiquitous, a servicemember may not be able to dismiss a petition or avoid showing up in a U.S. court for trial.

Because this factor can impact a military divorce case so much, it is a good idea to secure legal advice and representation from a civilian divorce attorney in Alpharetta and to attempt to negotiate divorce prior to trial. Remote attorney sessions can be scheduled around the servicemember’s military obligations, and the successful filing of an uncontested divorce will avoid the stress and cost of having to take leave and fly back on the court’s schedule to obtain a less-than-satisfactory divorce.

Military Command and Associated Personnel

Military bases usually have a legal assistance office with one or more Judge Advocate General officers, or JAGs. These are military attorneys responsible for military justice and law. In addition, they provide free legal advice to the servicemembers in their command for all kinds of legal issues, including divorce. JAG officers also refer military personnel and spouses to low-cost civilian divorce attorneys within the appropriate divorce jurisdiction.

The JAG can counsel a servicemember or their spouse regarding the military issues in divorce, such as retirement pay and benefits, custody, and jurisdiction. He or she cannot fill out divorce papers for them or represent them in court, however. The same JAG cannot advise both spouses in a military divorce either, so in those cases, the second person to contact the JAG would be referred to a different JAG or even a different legal assistance office on another base.

During a divorce, a deployed servicemember’s commanding officer can lend support to their request for a stay by submitting an affidavit that states that the servicemember is deployed, required at their post, or ineligible for leave. These statements by commanding officers are taken very seriously by local divorce courts.

Military Spouses with Kids

Military parents, like other divorcing parents, have to have a Parenting Plan in place which accounts for all normal situations. For military families, this will include home assignment, deployment, sudden deployment, and continuing communications with deployed parents while they are away.

Should a non-deployed parent relocate to a different jurisdiction with the child(ren) during the other parent’s deployment, the Alpharetta court retains all legal jurisdiction over the kids. State law declares a court-ordered child custody arrangement superior to the servicemember’s military Family Care plan, but in the event that the non-deployed parent refuses to or can’t follow the modified deployment parenting plan filed with the court, the Family Care Plan will be followed. It should therefore be consistent with the final Parenting Plan so that the child experiences no unpleasant surprises.

Financial Obligations for Military Spouses

Case law in Georgia has integrated the USFSPA in allowing a servicemember’s military retirement pay to be calculated and divided upon divorce as part of the marital property. On top of the regular division of property, either spouse may be required to pay alimony or keep the children on their medical insurance plan, same as with other civilian divorces.

When a servicemember is obligated to pay child support and/or alimony, and is in arrears, the receiving spouse may file their child and/or spousal support order with the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) Garnishment Law Directorate as long as the court order is not more than two years old. Upon approval of the order, DFAS will initiate garnishment of the servicemember’s base pay.

All branches of the military look down on a servicemember’s failure to fulfill their financial obligations, especially to family, and child support and maintenance obligations take precedence over other claims. Filing your court order with DFAS is therefore an excellent way to ensure that arrearages do not accumulate for very long and that you and your children receive the financial support you deserve.

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