Deciding to file for divorce is difficult for most people. But deciding to divorce when at least one half of the couple is in the military brings a whole set of unique circumstances into the process.
Where You File Matters
For non-military couples, deciding where to file for divorce is easy: You file where you live. However, in the military community, it is common for a couple currently living in Shelby or Gastonia, North Carolina to be from a state on the other side of the country, have been married in yet another state, and own property in a fourth state.
To further complicate matters, the couple may have recently experienced a Permanent Change of Station (PCS) move by the military to North Carolina and not been in the state long enough to register to vote or otherwise establish residency here. So how does a military couple decide where to file their divorce?
Most of the time, the couple living in North Carolina should file in North Carolina. The reason for this is simple: It will be much easier (and cheaper!) for them to meet with lawyers and attend any hearings.
However, there are some situations where it may make sense for one of the individuals to file in another state, based on that state's laws. For example, Puerto Rican divorce courts will not divide a military pension between the service member and the spouse. While it would greatly benefit the service member to file in Puerto Rico, the military spouse would want to hire a North Carolina lawyer and insist on filing the divorce in North Carolina.
It's worth noting that neither the servicemember's official home of record nor the state where the couple was married has anything to do with where they should file for divorce.
It's also important that the divorcing military couple understands that different states require different lengths of time between legally separating and gaining a divorce. In North Carolina, the couple must be legally separated for a year before they can get divorced, while some states do not require a legal separation period at all.
Military couples should also know that North Carolina does not generally allow a military deployment to count as a legal separation period unless the couple began the deployment intending it to be so.
Dividing Kids, Money, and Pensions
Determining child custody and visitation, assigning spousal support and dividing a military pension are other factors that make military divorces significantly more complicated.
Each situation is unique. The frequent moves of military lifestyles and the impact they have on child custody agreements and on a military spouse's ability to build a career during the marriage, and the possibility of dividing a military pension, make it essential that divorcing military couples receive legal advice from an experienced, knowledgeable lawyer.
The Caulder and Valentine law firm can assist you in charting a course through your military divorce, making sure all of your interests are protected. With offices in Shelby and Gastonia, we're conveniently located and eager to meet with you to discuss your options. Contact us online or by calling 704.470.2440 today.