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How Long Does California Military Divorce Take?

Soldier situating opposite his spouse and promising to come back home alive

Divorce never comes at an easy time. If one spouse is an active-duty servicemember, the divorce proceedings can become that much more complicated. A number of issues unique to military divorces may arise which can complicate or delay the proceedings. Below, our knowledgeable Claremont military divorce attorneys discuss complications that can come up in filing for divorce from an active servicemember.

Where to File for Divorce

Typically, when you file for divorce, you can file in a state in which either party has legal residence. Whoever files the papers gets to choose where to file, although the case could be transferred to a different venue if the court determines it makes more sense to handle the case in another jurisdiction (such as if the couple’s property, evidence, shared children and/or witnesses are all in another location). It’s important to consider the different laws in each state when choosing where to file, including how the state handles military pensions.

If one spouse is stationed somewhere in the country, the filing party can file either where either spouse resides or where the military spouse is stationed. For a divorce in California, one spouse must either be stationed or reside in California. If you are not yet a legal resident of the state where you live, then you must either wait to file or file where your spouse has residency.

What if You File While Your Spouse is Deployed?

Under normal circumstances, when you file for divorce, your spouse has a limited amount of time to file a response. You file your complaint for divorce and then serve that complaint along with a summons on your spouse. Your spouse then has 30 days to formally respond by filing an answer or some other legal action. If your spouse fails to respond in 30 days or requests additional time, you can move for a “default judgment,” which essentially grants you everything you asked for in your divorce complaint.

The government understands, however, that active-duty military personnel cannot necessarily respond to a divorce summons or any other civil complaint in a timely manner. The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) is a federal law that protects military members on active duty from a variety of legal problems that could arise due to deployment, including evictions, income tax payments, mortgage rates, foreclosure, and civil judicial proceedings. Civil judicial proceedings covered by the SCRA include divorce proceedings.

Under the terms of the law, an active-duty servicemember can fail to respond to a divorce summons without facing default judgment if their deployment affected their ability to respond. The court, on its own or on request of the servicemember, can delay the divorce proceedings for the entire duration of the spouse’s active duty. The deployed spouse can, however, choose to waive the divorce process postponement. At that point, the deployed spouse would want to hire an attorney to protect their rights during the proceedings.

The law does not give servicemembers carte blanche to ignore divorce papers entirely; federal agencies and uniformed service members are still responsible for facilitating the legal process where possible. Another challenge is that effecting proper service on a servicemember who is deployed abroad can be extremely challenging and requires jumping through special legal hoops. It may take significantly more time for the servicemember to legally receive the divorce papers, which can delay the proceedings.

Other Complications With Military Divorces

Even once the proceedings begin, military divorce can raise other complex issues that can delay the divorce and settlement. For example, special laws apply to the maximum amount a service person will pay in spousal and child support. There are special considerations concerning military pensions, special tax issues, and rules surrounding servicemembers’ basic allowances. These matters must all factor into any divorce settlement or ongoing divorce dispute. If the parties can reach agreement, a settlement can always resolve the dispute most efficiently. If the parties cannot agree, however, then the process can take some time.

Call a savvy California family law attorney at Blasser Law for help with spousal support, divorce, annulment, custody disputes, or any other California family law matter. The passionate and trial-ready Claremont divorce legal team at Blasser Law is ready to assist clients with any family law concerns in the San Gabriel Valley or Los Angeles County. Contact our family law office at 877-927-2181.

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Claremont, CA 91711

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