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Military Divorce Jurisdiction

Understanding Divorce Jurisdiction in California

The divorce process is very different for military members than it is for civilians, particularly in the area of jurisdiction. Every state has its own family law and requirements for divorce. In California, two spouses cannot get divorced unless one of the spouses has been a California resident for six months, and a resident of the county in which they are filing for at least three months. The residency of the other spouse does not matter; however, military divorces can still be problematic due to a servicemember's constantly-changing residency.

In military divorce cases, there are three different types of jurisdiction. The first is the legal residence of the nonmilitary spouse. A petition for divorce can be filed when the nonmilitary spouse meets the requirements for the state and county in which they have resided. The second type of jurisdiction is the legal residency of the military spouse. This can be tricky, since military members are allowed by law to reside in one state while claiming another as their legal residency. The third type of jurisdiction is the state in which the military servicemember is stationed. If you are unsure of which jurisdiction applies for your divorce case, Cutter & Lax, Attorneys at Law can help.

Jurisdiction for Active Duty Military Divorce

When a military servicemember is stationed overseas, the divorce process can become even more complex. In 2003, the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act was passed to prevent deployed servicemembers from being penalized for failing to respond to a service of divorce, or a failure to appear in court. Active duty military are unable to respond and comply with divorce proceedings while they are serving overseas, which means that, until they return to the U.S., they are protected from civil lawsuits during divorce.

If you are a nonmilitary spouse looking to file for divorce while your spouse is overseas, there are a few things to keep in mind. You have every right to file a divorce petition, but you will need to serve the divorce papers to your active-duty spouse. You can request that the military authorities do so on your behalf, but your spouse may refuse such service. In this case, you can request the court to serve the papers, but it is not likely that they will be willing to send someone out of the country on your behalf. You may instead have to wait until your spouse returns from active duty before action can be taken on your divorce process.

Consult with a California Military Divorce Lawyer

Cutter & Lax has extensive experience in all areas of family law and military divorce. We know your rights and are strong advocates for those in need of excellent representation. Attorney Nelson Cutter is a retired JAG officer and reservist with a firsthand understanding of military laws. By hiring a California military family law attorney from our firm, you will have an edge in your case. Contact us right away to take part in a case evaluation and learn more about how we can help!

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