Divorce During Deployment: What You Should Know

Deployment can be hard on a military family. Any long-distance relationship takes work, and adding the stress of a military deployment means sometimes the relationship doesn’t survive. If you are a deployed service member or a military spouse here at home, here’s what you need to know about divorce during deployment.

Can a Soldier Get a Divorce During Deployment?

Members of the U.S. Armed Forces have the right to a divorce just like their civilian counterparts. However, there are some complicating factors.

Where Should Active-Duty Servicemembers File for Divorce?

The most difficult thing for soldiers and servicemembers seeking a divorce during deployment is knowing where to file the paperwork. Colorado law requires anyone filing for a divorce to be a legal resident of the State of Colorado for at least 90 days prior to filing a Petition for divorce. Being stationed on one of Colorado’s six military installations is not enough. Instead, you will need to have proof of residency such as a:

  • Colorado driver’s license
  • Voter registration
  • Proof of property ownership
  • Pay taxes

Unfortunately, many Colorado servicemembers who live on base never take the time to formally transfer their residency. (If you enlisted right out of high school, your legal residence may still be with your parents!) If you need to establish residency before getting a divorce, this could slow down the process, especially if you are trying to get a divorce during deployment and can’t physically walk into a state Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office. 

Attending Divorce Court Hearings While Deployed

Getting divorced during deployment can also present problems because you will be required to attend certain court hearings. Your Colorado divorce attorney can appear on your behalf, and may be able to arrange for you to participate virtually or by phone. But if you are a naval servicemember deployed at sea, in an active war zone, or in a place that has poor reception, it may be hard for you to attend the hearings necessary to complete your divorce before you return to the states. Coordinate with your attorney and your Commanding Officer to see if you can schedule hearings during leave. 

My Husband (or Wife) is Deployed and I Want a Divorce

If you are a military spouse staying home while your husband or wife is deployed on active duty, it could also limit your ability to get divorced. The Servicemember’s Civil Relief Act (SCRA) is a federal law designed to protect active-duty and deployed soldiers and sailors from having court actions brought against them when they are unable to respond. The SCRA allows an active-duty military servicemember to ask the court for an extra 90 days to respond to a Complaint for Divorce or other family court document, and to “stay” or postpone any proceedings while they are unable to attend due to deployment. This doesn’t happen automatically. The deployed spouse needs to request the stay. It also doesn’t last forever, but it can delay proceedings until up to 60 days after the servicemember returns from deployment. 

Serving Divorce Papers While Deployed

When your spouse is deployed overseas, it can also be complicated to have him or her served with divorce paperwork. Colorado law requires the non-filing party to be served with the Petition for Divorce and related paperwork personally (through hand delivery) or via certified mail (return receipt requested). This can create problems even if your spouse is stationed on a U.S. base. Civilian process servers may have trouble getting on base to personally serve the necessary documents. Military authorities are not legally required to serve papers on their servicemembers. However, each branch has an approved method for obtaining service of process on Armed Forces personnel. There are also formal international service options available through the Hague Convention. Depending on where your spouse is stationed, you may have options for formally starting the proceedings, even if they cannot be resolved until your spouse returns from deployment.

Custody Cases During Deployment

All of these issues apply even if you are not married. Custody cases involving active-duty servicemembers must generally comply with the same filing and service requirements. Determining whether you can file your custody case in Colorado will depend on where your children have lived. Under the Uniform Child-Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA), Colorado family court judges can usually only decide the custody of children who have lived in the state for at least six months consecutively before the case is filed (with some exceptions). Here it is the children’s residence, not the parents’ that matters. If one parent is deployed overseas but the children have been living in Colorado, their non-military parent will likely be able to file for custody through the Colorado courts. However, the SCRA will still apply and could slow down your ability to receive a final custody order.

Get Help with Your Military Divorce from Veteran Family Lawyers

Knowing where to file, how to serve a deployed spouse, and how the SCRA can affect your divorce proceedings are only a few ways that military divorce is different. Beyond these procedural challenges, there are also custody and visitation concerns, spousal maintenance considerations, and property distribution issues specific to active-duty servicemembers and veterans. If you are in a military divorce, get help from Colorado divorce attorneys who know military law. 

At Aviso Law, LLC, our military divorce lawyers are veterans themselves. We know the issues facing active-duty military parents and their spouses seeking divorce during deployment. Because of our experience, we can work with the military procedures to make sure service is proper, and the servicemembers’ rights are protected, while doing what is best for you and your family. We are here to serve you and your family during your military divorce. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.

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