Military life is stressful both for enlisted men and women and their families. Add this to the stress of ordinary life and obligations, and it is not surprising that divorce is at least as prevalent in military families as in civilian ones.
A member of the United States military who decides to pursue a California divorce follows essentially the same procedural steps as he or she would for a civilian divorce. An active service member’s spouse who wishes to file for divorce also must follow these steps, but there are legal protections in place designed to make sure that the California divorce process is as fair as possible for all parties, especially under the difficult circumstances of active military duty.
A number of laws exist in order to protect the legal rights of members of the United States military while they offer service to our country. If you or your spouse are in the military and need a divorce, you should be aware of them.
The Service Members’ Civil Relief Act (SCRA) is the most recent iteration of the Soldier and Sailors Civil Relief Act of 1940 (SSCRA), a federal law that protects military personnel from certain applications of civil law. This law protects servicemen and women who, due to absence from home for military service, may be unable to answer a petition for divorce or appear in court. A military defendant in a civil action, including divorce, can use SCRA to postpone a legal proceeding against him or her for the duration of his active military duty, plus 60 days.
In some circumstances, of course, the military spouse consents to the divorce proceeding. In these situations, the soldier may agree to let the divorce proceed. However, he or she must still be properly served with the petition for divorce, and must sign an affidavit waiving the ordinary requirement of physical presence.
Service members are also protected by jurisdictional requirements. “Jurisdiction” refers to the authority of a court to hear a particular case or make orders regarding a particular party. In order for California courts to have jurisdiction over a divorce when one or both members is in the military, at least one of the parties must reside, or be officially stationed, in California. Without proper jurisdiction, a divorce case may be dismissed. Similarly, proper service of process upon a military spouse is essential in order for the court to have jurisdiction over that party, but service may be very complicated due to the nature of active military service. It's important to have an attorney who is knowledgeable about these issues.
With increased U.S. military presence around the world in recent years, the law dealing with legal protections for service members in family law cases continues to evolve in California and elsewhere.
At Shaffer & Associates, we have deep gratitude and respect for our United States military and for the families that make their service possible. We understand that divorce can be even more stressful under the circumstances of military life, and we do everything possible to keep our clients informed and empowered at every step of their California military divorce proceeding.
The San Diego attorneys of Shaffer & Associates represent clients in California military divorces in San Diego County and the surrounding communities, including Orange County, Riverside County and Los Angeles County. Contact Shaffer & Associates online or call (619) 595-3167 today to discuss how we may be of help in your case.