By Bonnie A. Rabinovitch-Mantel, CFLS.
With Camp Pendleton and the Naval Base nearby, San Diego County is certainly a proud home to its share of military service members and their families. When it comes to divorce among military members in San Diego, however, there are a few specific considerations to be made.
For instance, what happens if one spouse is on active duty overseas? How is a military pension handled in terms of dividing assets? Below, let’s explore a few of the ways that military divorces are different from civilian divorces in San Diego.
- Filing and Attaining Process Service While a Spouse is on Active Duty
In order for a civil court to have legal jurisdiction over a military divorce, the military spouse must be personally served divorce papers and a summons. If a spouse is attempting to file a divorce while his or her spouse is away on active duty, then the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act comes into play. This law states that the active duty service member cannot be held entirely responsible for a delay or lapse in responding to a petition for divorce. However, the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act does not exempt active duty military members from outright ignoring divorce papers.
By most measures, the best way to serve divorce papers to an active duty service member is to officially mail a summons abroad to what’s called a “central authority,” who will then serve those papers to the active duty spouse within that jurisdiction.
- Dividing a Military Pension
A big question involved in any divorce proceeding is how assets, such as a pension, will be divided. In the case of military pensions, there is a special federal regulation that dictates how the military pension is divided. This is called the Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act, and its function is to calculate and divide military pension benefits. Because this is a federal law, it’s important your divorce attorney has a proper understanding of this Act’s function, so that your legal interests are properly represented when dividing a military pension.
- Military Specific Rules and Regulations
Just as in the above two points, military divorces in San Diego are overseen and handled in a far different way than a traditional civilian divorce. Some other factors that may affect servicing documents/petitions or dividing assets include: active duty location, state laws, rules for serving divorce petitions in person, appointments of officers of the court as a proxy for active duty service members, and more.
Divorces are already complicated, even without the added variable of a military service member as a spouse. That’s why proper preparation, documentation, and enlisting the aid of family law attorney with experience are key when it comes to filing a military divorce in San Diego.