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Follow-Up: How Do Jurisdiction Requirements Change for Military Divorces?

Editor’s Note: Last week, we discussed jurisdiction requirements for civilian divorces. In response to a few questions we received, we’re going to expand on that topic this week to cover the differences for military divorces. 

Are you a servicemember that just received orders to D.C., Maryland, or Virginia? Are you thinking about filing for divorce, but are not sure where you can file?

The issue of satisfying domicile requirements for divorce may be complicated if you exercised your right as a military member to maintain a domicile outside D.C. or Maryland (say Florida or Texas, for example).  Traveling back and forth from your home of record and the DMV is probably not a feasible option.

In our previous blog, we explained that in order to obtain a valid divorce, a person needs to be domiciled in a state for a certain period of time. You may be wondering what that means if you are a servicemember. This blog will focus on that domicile requirement for servicemembers in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia.

The Domicile Requirement for Servicemembers

States differ in their domicile requirements for servicemembers seeking a divorce. Some states may apply the same laws to both civilians and servicemembers, while others may have specific provisions for servicemembers.

Virginia, for example, is one state that has special provisions for servicemembers to satisfy the domicile and residential requirements incident to filing for divorce. Virginia law presumes that a servicemember who is stationed in Virginia and has lived in Virginia for six months before filing for divorce is domiciled in Virginia for the purposes of initiating a divorce proceeding. This provision also applies to servicemembers stationed on ships with home ports in Virginia and stationed to military bases in Virginia.

It is important to note that some other states do not have laws like Virginia regarding domicile for servicemembers. This could potentially cause enforcement issues for a divorce decree in those other states if the domicile requirement was not met.

For instance, Maryland and Washington, D.C. do not have a special exception carved out for servicemembers. To that end, to obtain a valid divorce in a Maryland or D.C. state court, one of the parties must have been a resident of Maryland or D.C. for six months prior to filing for divorce. Complicated legal questions arise if a servicemember who maintained a residence outside of Maryland is sued for divorce in Maryland by a non-resident spouse. In this scenario, the divorce decree and related relief may be subject to attack.

Because states may have specific laws regarding domicile for servicemembers seeking to obtain a divorce in their courts, it is important to consult an attorney familiar with those laws to help ensure that the divorce will be valid. The attorneys at Patriots Law Group are familiar with the challenges that servicemembers may face when dealing with a divorce. Call us for help today!

DISCLAIMER:  The information above is for informational purposes only and is not intended to serve as legal advice for any particular situation.  No attorney-client relationship is intended or created by this information and may not be relied upon based on the above-statements.  Each individual situation is different and therefore a consultation is necessary before any advice can be relied upon as appropriate and accurate for your situation. This information is current as of January 15, 2020.  No representation is intended for whether this information remains current after this date.  Please call Patriots Law Group at 301-952-9000 to set up a consultation if you wish to obtain specific legal advice concerning your situation.