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What makes a military divorce different from a civilian divorce?

35462374_S.jpgAs a previous post discussed, divorces for military service members can be different and more complex when compared to civilian divorces. Because military laws apply to certain aspects, the process itself can be prolonged or complicated. Thus, those filing for a divorce should understand what protections are provided military members and what issues they should pay special attention to.

What makes a military divorce different from a civilian divorce? It should be noted that one way a military divorce is different is that Congress has afforded military service members legal protections during divorce proceedings. These protections are not offered to the public at large as these protections protect the legal interests of servicemen and woman, especially when it comes to their military benefits and pension.

The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act protects the rights and interests of military members from lawsuits, including divorce proceedings, in order to enable them to devote all of their energies to the military and the needs of the nation. Because of that, a legal proceeding can be delayed while a military member is on active duty. This delay could extend 60 days after he or she returns from active duty. It should be noted that this right to delay a legal proceeding is at the discretion of the court and is not granted in all situations.

A stay for a divorce proceeding is not automatic, so military members should not ignore the divorce papers that were served. A motion is required and will need to be filed with the court in order to be approved for the delay. Once a stay is granted, the divorce proceeding will have to be addressed once the stay is over.

Additionally, if the divorce seems inevitable, it might make more sense to deal with it sooner than later. That means going through the process while on deployment. Another factor to consider is the portion of a service member's retirement a spouse can claim will only increase with time. So the longer it takes to divorce means the larger claim a spouse has on these benefits.

The benefits discussed above are only a glimpse at some of the factors and protections servicemen and women should consider during dissolution. Because of that, it is important to fully understand the rights afforded during a military divorce, seeking legal advice where needed.

Source: Thebalance.com, "Military Divorce and Separation," Erik Bjornson, Nov. 10, 2016

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