Divorce laws for military spouses vary, in some ways, from those applying to civilians. The details of military divorces in North Carolina also differ from those of military divorces in other states. Filing for divorce in the military and each state includes specific requirements and provisions regarding filing the complaint.
Divorce laws in the military cover special requirements regarding the divorce agreement, like child support and property rights. A Charlotte, North Carolina divorce lawyer, like those of Remington & Dixon PLLC, can guide you through the sometimes confusing process of getting a North Carolina military divorce.
Getting a Divorce in the Military in North Carolina vs. Traditional Divorce
Divorce laws in the military are similar to those for citizens of the state where the divorce is filed. But military divorce laws address some conditions unique to military service.
To file for a civilian divorce in North Carolina, the law requires that:
- One party has been a state resident for at least six months before filing for divorce.
- The spouses must have been separated — living apart for at least a year.
The requirements for a military divorce in North Carolina are somewhat similar. But there are several differences.
The one-year separation applies in the case of a military divorce also. But the spouse on military service is only required to have been stationed at a military base in North Carolina for six months before filing for divorce.
Serving a Divorce Complaint: The Servicemembers Civil Rights Act
In a civilian divorce, a divorce complaint is served to the non-filing spouse in a manner that permits them to file a response. If the papers are served correctly, but the spouse fails to file an answer, a default judgment of divorce can be triggered against the non-filing spouse.
In a military divorce, the process can be even more complex. If the non-serving spouse has been deployed to another state or country, it can be nearly impossible for that person to file an answer.
But the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act protects active service members. It allows the judge to postpone the finalization of the divorce for 90 days or more. Basically, the law protects service members against a default judgment if they were not served divorce papers.
Military Divorce Laws in North Carolina
North Carolina laws which apply to filing for divorce in the military cover specific requirements regarding spousal agreements, and the distribution of assets and benefits. The following provides a simple overview, but a North Carolina Divorce lawyer can help determine the probable conditions applying to your specific situation.
Marital property in a military divorce in NC
North Carolina divorce law implies equitable distribution of marital property. The NC court will determine what is considered fair property division during the divorce proceedings.
Making such a determination can be complicated, even in the case of a standard NC divorce. A military divorce is further complicated by the fact that, if one spouse is an active member of the Armed Forces, the couple — and finally, the court — must decide how to divide not only the property, but also any military pension and benefits.
How child custody is addressed in a NC military divorce
Similar rules are followed regarding child support and custody, in North Carolina, for both civilian and military divorces.
But deployment can alter the way the situation is addressed. If one spouse is deployed to a distant location, custody agreement can include special consideration for the inability to have frequent, regular visits like:
- Time for video calls.
- Non-standard arrangements regarding the exchange location for visitation.
Child support payments may be higher for a deployed spouse, since it’s impossible for a deployed spouse to have frequent visitations and to fulfill parenting responsibilities as much as a civilian could.
Also, since military spouses, in many cases, take full responsibility for their children’s upbringing while the other spouse is stationed outside the state, they may not be able to get the necessary education and skills to earn a significant income. Higher than average child support payments help to compensate.
In a military divorce, child support is easier to enforce, since the spouse paying support will be held accountable, not only through the traditional family law court, but also by the military court system.
Medical benefits in NC military divorces
To receive full medical benefits in a North Carolina military divorce, a divorcing spouse must have been married for at least 20 years to someone who served in the military for at least 20 years. There must also be an overlap of at least 20 years.
This is known as 20-20-20 coverage. Former spouses who don’t qualify for 20-20-20 coverage may receive temporary coverage.
How are retirement benefits handled in a NC military divorce?
The Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act was established to govern fair distribution of military benefits.
Basically, it provides that, if an ex-military spouse was married to a military service member for at least ten years, during which the military spouse performed at least ten years of service, the ex-spouse is eligible to receive direct pension pay benefits from the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS). This is termed the 10-10 rule.
Withholding (Garnishing) military wages
Every US state allows garnishment of pay or property to enforce a soldier’s obligation to pay child support. But if a member of the military is serving active-duty overseas, garnishment of wages could be complicated.
For instance, if you have filed an order in Germany, and the soldier returns to the United States, the soldier’s pay is usually still within reach of the German courts, but a bit more effort could be required for enforcement.
A German court order must be obtained and forwarded to the court nearest where the soldier resides, in the US. The US court would then examine the evidence and determine whether the soldier is liable for payment of support. In some states, if the order is approved, the US court will honor the German court’s order and require garnishment of the military member’s wages.
Get Help From a North Carolina Divorce Lawyer
Any divorce can be complicated and stressful. Getting a divorce in the military, in which one or both spouses are members of the armed forces, can seem even more complex and daunting, since both federal and state laws can apply to the situation.
But our knowledgeable and experienced North Carolina family law attorneys are here to guide you through the process. Contact us at the law office of Remington & Dixon PLLC with any questions or concerns about your divorce.
Military Divorce FAQs
How long does it take to get a military divorce in North Carolina?
But, as noted above, once the spouses go through the required one-year separation period, and after the paperwork is filed and served, the non-serving spouse has 30 days to respond. If the spouse is an active military service member, the state court can postpone the finalization of the divorce for 90 days or more under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act.
The process will be faster for an uncontested divorce, a situation occurring when both parties agree on the terms of asset division, child custody, etc.
Is legal advice necessary for a military divorce in North Carolina?
Jennifer is a founding partner at Remington & Dixon, PLLC. Jennifer concentrates her practice in the areas of family law, wills & estates, unemployment benefits appeals, and traffic. At Elon University School of Law, Jennifer was the vice president of the Public Interest Law Society and a member of the Family Law Society. During law school, Jennifer interned at the Elon University School of Law Field Placement Clinic with Legal Aid of North Carolina where she represented clients in domestic violence court proceedings.