For military families in North Carolina, divorce raises a few important issues. Divorce for members of the armed forces may involve both state and federal law. In addition, military families may be dealing with active deployment and child custody issues during separation and divorce. Military spouses should be aware of how their divorce cases might be different than civilians’ cases.
Where Do You File for Military Divorce?
When you or your spouse travels frequently for deployments or assignments, you may wonder where you can file for divorce. Filing for divorce falls under state law. In most states, you or your spouse must live in that state to be granted a divorce. North Carolina law requires that you or your spouse (or both) be a resident of the state for at least six months before you file the divorce papers. If your spouse is not a resident or is deployed, you may need legal help to properly serve divorce papers to him or her.
Being a resident for six months does not mean simply living in the state temporarily or briefly. Service members stationed in North Carolina may not always establish residency. The same is true for their spouses. Your family and divorce law lawyer can advise on any steps you could take to show residency, which could include registering to vote, paying taxes, or getting a state driver’s license.
Military Retirement Assets – How Will They Affect a Divorce?
Members of the armed forces receive various benefits that may count as marital property. In North Carolina, marital property is divided between divorcing spouses by a method called equitable distribution. If you are a spouse who is not in the military, you may be entitled to receive a portion of your military spouse’s retirement benefits. A federal law called the Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act allows state courts to allocate part of military retirement benefits to some non-military spouses.
Non-military spouses should consult an experienced and knowledgeable divorce attorney who understands the division of retirement benefits. Military retirement pay could be a substantial asset in the divorce, so make sure you have legal advice about how to receive it. In addition, members of the armed forces also should speak to their own attorneys about protecting as much of their retirement pay as possible during the asset division process.
Is There a Waiting Period for Military Divorces?
In North Carolina, all couples must go through a one-year separation period before they can file for divorce. In addition, a federal law called the Servicemembers’ Civil Relief Act could delay a divorce. The law provides relief for servicemembers who are on active duty when they are served with divorce papers. They can request a “stay” or halt in the court proceedings until after their tour of duty ends.
If you are on active duty and get served with a divorce, you must act quickly. You or your lawyer should notify the court that you need a stay under this federal law. Otherwise, you will be expected to show up to court dates and file paperwork on time. This could be difficult or impossible for military families depending on your active duty assignment.
What About Child Custody Issues in Military Families?
Child custody during a military divorce could be a difficult issue. When one or both parents may be deployed with little warning, you will need a custody agreement that fits your specific situation. North Carolina law directs courts to look to the best interests of the child when deciding custody arrangements. The best interests of the child is the primary consideration for all children in custody disputes, including children of military families.
It may seem difficult to negotiate a custody arrangement that can accommodate sudden deployments or travel to faraway places. Fortunately, child custody can include electronic communications and virtual “visitation”. If you are located far from your spouse, the custody agreement should discuss who will pay for transportation for the child. Moreover, your custody agreement should explain what happens if one parent cannot attend a visitation or cannot take custody due to a military assignment.
Because of the special issues involved in military divorces, spouses and members of the armed forces must seek knowledgeable legal advice before filing for divorce. Your lawyer can help you navigate the state and federal laws that apply, ensure you take into account valuable military benefits, and negotiate a child custody agreement that works with your schedule.
Let New Direction Family Law Help Today
Are you an active duty member of the military or a non-military spouse? The team at New Direction Family Law is available today to help military families and answer your questions about divorce in North Carolina. With decades of combined legal experience, our attorneys are knowledgeable, effective, and compassionate professionals. Our North Carolina legal team will help you understand your legal rights and work hard toward your best outcome. Visit New Direction Family Law at our website, or contact us at (919) 646-6561 to schedule a consultation.