Ending any marriage can be stressful, but military divorces bring additional concerns. If you’re contemplating a divorce, you should understand how military and civilian divorces differ.
Military divorces involve overlapping federal and state laws. To help you navigate these complexities, you should hire a lawyer with plenty of experience in military divorces. At Batson Nolan PLC, our office is close to Fort Campbell, so we are experienced with the unique challenges of the military community when going through a divorce. Contact us today.
Here, we’ll explain some of the unique aspects of a military divorce, so you can better understand why a military divorce is different from other divorce.
What Laws Govern Military Divorce?
State and federal law govern military divorces, unlike civilian divorces, which exclusively fall under state law. The difference between military divorce and civilian divorce laws can impact your reputation, finances, and career.
State law governs divorce, and state courts determine property division, child custody, and spousal support. These aspects of divorce are usually left to the discretion of the judge.
Each state also has requirements for who can file for divorce in state courts. Because military members move so frequently, determining what court has jurisdiction over a divorce can be complicated.
The Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) is a federal law that applies to all military members, including reserve members and military academy students. The UCMJ can differ from civil law when it comes to divorce.
Unlike under civilian law, the UCMJ allows adultery to be prosecuted as a crime. Punishment for adultery can include:
- Dishonorable discharge,
- Forfeiture of pay, and
- Confinement for up to a year.
Criminal acts under civilian law, such as domestic abuse and child abuse, are also crimes under the UCMJ and punishable by military justice.
Where Can I File My Military Divorce?
You can file for divorce in a Tennessee county if you meet one of these jurisdictional requirements:
- The grounds for divorce occurred while you were a Tennessee resident; or
- You or your spouse lived in Tennessee for the six months prior to filing for divorce.
If your spouse is a resident of Tennessee, you must file for divorce in the county where they reside. If your spouse doesn’t live in Tennessee or is a convict, then you can file in the county where you reside.
Tennessee law clarifies that “any person in the armed services of the United States, or the spouse of any such person, who has been living in this state for a period of not less than one (1) year shall be presumed to be a resident of this state.”
What Are Grounds for Divorce?
In Tennessee, you can file for divorce when you have established a reason for the divorce. Tennessee lists fifteen different grounds for divorce, ranging from adultery to habitual drunkenness or drug use. Tennessee also allows you to claim irreconcilable differences or separation of two or more years as grounds for divorce.
What Is the Waiting Period In a Military Divorce?
Obtaining a divorce in Tennessee will take several months or possibly longer if a spouse is deployed. After filing your complaint, you must wait at least 60 days for a divorce hearing if you have no children under 18. If you have children under 18, you must wait at least 90 days for a hearing.
For military divorces, the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) may delay the process. The SCRA is a federal law that protects military members financially and legally while they serve on active duty. The SCRA allows active-duty military members to delay divorce and child custody court hearings until they return.
How Do Deployments Affect Child Custody?
Military members need more flexibility in child custody arrangements when they are subject to deployments. Active duty parents shouldn’t lose their rights to their children as a result of service to their country. A lawyer for a military parent will advocate for the parent to have a fair amount of time with their child when they return from active duty. The SCRA protects military parents from child custody legal actions taking place while they are on active duty.
What Child Support Do Military Members Pay?
Military members pay child support according to the Tennessee guidelines. These guidelines recommend child support payments based on the parents’ adjusted gross income and the number of children needing support. To calculate the amount of child support a military member must pay or receive, you need to provide documentation of each parent’s base salary.
Do Military Members Pay Spousal Support?
The court has discretion over whether to award alimony and how much to award. Tennessee courts can require four different types of alimony:
- Long-term alimony: paid until the recipient remarries or dies;
- Lump-sum alimony: paid as a set amount in one lump sum;
- Rehabilitative alimony: pays for the recipient’s education or job training; or
- Transitional alimony: paid to help the recipient adjust to the economic effects of the divorce.
Tennessee courts generally prefer rehabilitative alimony but may award other types under appropriate circumstances.
The Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act (USFSPA) is a federal law that offers protection to spouses of service members. Former spouses can also get a portion of a retired military member’s pay if they were married for at least 10 years and the person served at least 10 years in the military.
If a military member does not pay court-ordered child or spousal support, they can face military discipline, including court-martial and civil penalties.
Contact an Attorney for Military Divorce
If you are considering a military divorce, you need an attorney with knowledge of the complex laws governing this proceeding. Without skilled legal assistance, you may not feel equipped to protect your rights and avoid military justice consequences.
At Batson Nolan PLC, we help military members navigate legal difficulties, including divorce. Our firm has more than a century of experience serving Tennessee residents, giving us in-depth knowledge of state divorce law. We also understand the laws that govern military divorce, and we will advise you of your best options under both military and civilian law.
Each military divorce situation is unique, so we develop personalized strategies for each case. To learn more about how we can help you evaluate your divorce options, contact us for a consultation.