The military life can take a toll on a marriage, especially if the spouses must endure long periods of separation due to training or deployment. A divorce is an option for military couples, although the process is somewhat different for civilians. An overseas deployment, for instance, can complicate matters — conceivably, the non-military spouse could file for divorce without the knowledge of the active duty spouse. Federal and state military divorce laws are in place to prevent this situation from occurring and protect the interests of the military member.
How to File for a Military Divorce
In general, military laws allow for several options when determining the jurisdiction for a divorce:
- Filing in the state of residence for the previous six months or longer
- Filing in the state where the filing of taxes occurs
- Filing in the state where the member is stationed (applies in the U.S. only)
- Permitting spouses to file in the state where they reside
To file for a military divorce in PA, the military member or spouse must be a resident of or stationed in the Commonwealth. For the divorce to move forward, the active duty member must be served with a summons to allow the Pennsylvania courts to have jurisdiction over the case. If the military member does not wish to contest the divorce, he or she may sign a waiver of affidavit, which will eliminate the need for the serving of the summons.
How Are Active Military Members Protected?
According to a federal law known as the Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act, it is legal to suspend divorce proceedings for the entire time an active military member is serving, and for up to 60 days afterward. This stipulation protects the rights of the service members and prevents them from defaulting on a divorce action due to a failure or inability to respond (such as when serving in an active war zone). However, the active duty member can choose to waive this right if he or she wants a divorce sooner.
Dividing Property During a Divorce for Military Members
The Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act (USFSPA) is a federal law that determines the calculation and division of military retirement benefits in a divorce. The law stipulates that there will be no division of the military member’s retirement funds unless the couple has been married for at least 10 years while the service member was on active duty. Under the USFSPA, the spouse does not “automatically” qualify for benefits such as a portion of the member’s retirement pay or health insurance coverage and must meet specific eligibility requirements.
In some ways, the process of dividing property is the same as a military divorce proceeding. For example, the couple must reach an arrangement for the division of assets such as real estate and automobiles as well as debts such as personal loans and credit card balances. Pennsylvania divorce laws will apply to these situations for military divorces in the Keystone State.
Child Support and Spousal Support
Pennsylvania also has specific military divorce laws regarding the payment of spousal and child support. The law caps the amount of alimony and support awards at 60% of the military member’s pay and allowances. The standard PA schedules, worksheets and guidelines apply to the calculation of these amounts.
Contact MPL Law Firm to Learn More About Military and Army Divorce Laws in PA
MPL Law Firm has been helping military families navigate the complex military divorce process in Pennsylvania for decades. We’ll provide the personalized legal representation that will enable you to achieve the best possible outcome for your situation. Contact us to learn more about how to file for divorce in the military.