Military couples that are getting divorced face unique challenges. After the decision to get divorced is made, the first question that usually arises is where to file the divorce papers. As military families are well aware, frequent relocations are a part of life. If you have not lived in Utah for a long time, can you still file for divorce in this state? What should you do if your spouse is on active duty?
In order for a court to grant a divorce, it must have jurisdiction over both individuals. Jurisdiction is the court’s power to hear a case. Generally, you meet a state’s jurisdiction requirements if you are a legal resident of that state. The issue is not as simple for members of the military. Often, military members and their spouses are not legal residents of the state where they are stationed.
When it comes to military divorces, Utah law provides that the court has jurisdiction over the case if the petitioner has been stationed here under military orders for at least three months prior to filing for divorce. This law holds true even if you and your spouse are not legal residents of Utah.
In addition to meeting this jurisdictional requirement, the petitioner must also meet the service of process requirements. This means that the petitioner must serve the other party with the petition for divorce, the summons, and other relevant documents no later than 120 days after filing the petition. When service is completed, the petitioner must then file a proof of service with the court.
It is important to know that if the military spouse is on active duty when the petition for divorce is filed, he or she may be able to delay the proceedings under the Service Members Civil Relief Act. The SCRA protects military members from lawsuits and other legal proceedings while they are on active duty so that they can focus their attention on that duty.
As this post demonstrates, military divorces have special considerations. Going through a divorce is difficult enough, but being in the military can make it even more challenging. To get help with your divorce, contact an experienced family law attorney.