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Military Divorce

With more than 25 years of experience practicing divorce law in Phoenix, Arizona, the Law Offices of Steven N. Cole has the knowledge and expertise to navigate complex military divorce cases.

Divorces can be complicated in even the most ideal circumstances, and when one or both spouses is an active service member or military retiree, additional state and federal laws apply to the divorce process, each of which need to be taken into careful consideration when filing documents, determining jurisdiction, setting expectations, and moving forward with the divorce proceedings.

Jurisdiction
The first step of a military divorce is determining the area(s) of jurisdiction. In many military divorces, the spouses may be living in separate states, stationed on military bases in places other than their state of residence, deployed on active duty, stationed overseas, and so on. This makes determining jurisdiction a potentially confusing process, with plenty of room for nuance, shared jurisdiction, and specific laws that apply to a variety of situations. When approaching these jurisdiction decisions, an experienced military divorce attorney is an extremely valuable resource to have at your disposal.

To file in the State of Arizona, one spouse must be “domiciled” in Arizona for at least 90 days, proving that they’ve made reasonable action to make the state their primary residence (such as registering to vote or applying for a driver’s license). The filing state’s laws will typically govern matters of child custody, child support, and some provisions of asset division.

Service and SCRA
If one spouse is actively serving in the military, it may be difficult for them to be officially served with divorce papers, especially if they are stationed overseas or on a vessel. Similarly, that active service may also make it difficult to respond in a timely manner.
Members of the military are protected by the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), which provides for a stay of divorce proceedings for a 90-day period, and prevents default judgements against service members in divorce and paternity cases.
An experienced military divorce attorney will provide guidance in each of these scenarios, helping clients to effectively serve military members with divorce papers in difficult situations, and alternatively, ensuring that active service members know their rights and the protections that could benefit them.

Asset Division and Support
Under many state laws, including Arizona, military pensions are treated as “community property” under the Uniform Services Former Spouse’s Protection Act (USFSPA). This means that a portion of military benefits, including retirement, are included in the division of assets.

Because physical property may be in other states, and because of the complications that may arise in determining jurisdiction, a military divorce attorney will take the time to calculate all assets and determine which will be divided under the applicable jurisdictions.

Similarly, calculating child support, spousal support, insurance coverage, etc. will fall under Arizona state laws, with some exceptions provided by the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) and SCRA. Each case is unique, and requires a careful examination of all factors.

Military divorces can be complex, not only because of state and federal laws, but also because of distance, property in multiple states, special considerations for child custody, service member status, and beyond. The Law Offices of Steven N. Cole can help you navigate this potentially confusing process whether you’re a currently military member, a retired service member, or filing to divorce someone in the military. We treat each case with compassion and diligence, making sure to account for the small details that make a big difference in outcomes. Contact us today for a free consultation.
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