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Military Divorce in Alabama


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Alabama Military Divorce Laws

Divorce for military members is regulated by both state and federal laws at the same time. The Alabama Family Code mainly determines the set of required divorce forms, filing process, property division, and child-related issues. Along with it, several federal laws govern how to get a divorce in the military. Therefore, the distribution of military pensions and benefits, the way child and spousal support is paid, serving process, and residency requirements for divorce may be accompanied by additional rules and terms.

The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) and the Uniformed Services Former Spouses' Protection Act (USFSPA) set the main rules on how to file for divorce in the military. These laws protect both service members and their former spouses, ensuring a fair divorce proceeding.

Protection from Military Divorce

The military divorce in Alabama is governed both by state and federal laws. Actually, the process itself does not differ a lot from a regular civil divorce. Under the Alabama divorce laws, the grounds for divorce, as well as the main steps of the process, are the same. However, several federal laws play their roles, making the military divorce special.

But foremost, Alabama military divorce laws ensure that all the service members going through a divorce must be protected from the default judgment. No matter where the military member is stationed right now, he or she has the right to file for divorce or be personally served (as any other responder in a divorce proceeding) and properly notified about the start of a divorce action.

According to the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), 50 USC section 521: "the divorce proceeding may be postponed for the entire time the active service member is on duty and for up to 60 days thereafter." So, the regular period the non-filing spouse has under the Alabama Family Law to submit an answer for a divorce petition is extended for military members.

However:

  • The active-duty military personnel can waive this stay when he/she wishes to proceed with the divorce immediately.
  • In an uncontested military divorce, the spouse who is a service member may choose to waive the Service of Process.

Residency Requirements for Military Divorce

Unlike a divorce overseas, filing for divorce within the U.S. is quite simple for military members and their spouses.

According to Alabama military divorce laws, strict residency requirements are eliminated for service members' families.

Military members and their spouses can apply divorce petition both in the state of legal residence of either party and in the state where the service member is currently stationed.

While getting a divorce in the military, the choice of the state of filing still matters a lot. State family code determines whether any waiting period is required, whether the Joint Petition is recognized, what the grounds for divorce are available. The way property and child-related issues will be resolved also depends on state laws.

How to File for Divorce in the Military?

After deciding on a place of divorce, the filing process begins. Generally, Alabama filing divorce requirements for military members are the same as for civilians. The filing spouse has to file a divorce petition and other documents with the court and serve the second spouse with the copies. The only peculiarity is that the plaintiff should also submit the military status affidavit form. This document shows that one of the spouses is in the military. The provided information is needed for the court to make decisions on property, alimony, custody, taking into account Alabama military divorce laws.

Serving an Active Duty Military Spouse

The serving process means personally delivering the copies of divorce paperwork to the non-filing spouse. Alabama divorce requirements for military spouses do not assume that serving military personnel is any different than serving civilians.

Divorcing a military member, the plaintiff can use the private process server, sheriff's department, or other means provided by state law.

Regardless of the type of jurisdiction, process servers deliver the needed documents as in any other divorce case, contacting the provost marshal’s office if necessary.

If it happens that the plaintiff cannot find their husband or wife who serves in the military, that is not a problem. The government has information on how to locate them. Yet, unlike similar civil cases, Divorce by Publication is not applied. The military might not give out location information but ensures that the service member is served with the divorce papers.

Serving process while active duty military spouse is overseas

If it happens that the plaintiff cannot find their husband or wife who serves in the military, that is not a problem. The government has information on how to locate them. Yet, unlike similar civil cases, Divorce by Publication is not applied. The military might not give out location information but ensures that the service member is served with the divorce papers.

Whatever, while the spouse is deployed, the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act puts the military divorce process on pause until the active-duty spouse returns.

U.S. consular officials typically are not eligible to assist in overseas service of process. So, the serving process should be considered separately for each case, taking into account not only Alabama military divorce laws but also the rules and requirements of a particular country as well.

How Long Does a Military Divorce Take?

Since every case is unique and the circumstances are especially unpredictable when the thing is about divorce for military members, it's hardly possible to assume how long such a proceeding can take. For the same reason, it is not advised to arrange a pro se divorce (DIY-divorce) while the defendant is deployed. Legal assistance is likely to be required to properly conduct the process under such challenging conditions, even if both spouses agree to divorce. If the spouses want an inexpensive military divorce, it’s preferable to wait for a while and start a divorce action within the USA.

Property Division

In a Alabama military divorce, property rights of service members and their spouses also do not remain unprotected. The Uniformed Services Former Spouses' Protection Act is a federal law that regulates how the military retirement payments and other benefits must be divided. Wherein, the court may treat them either as sole or marital property depending on the circumstances.

According to USFSPA, the military pension can be subject to distribution in a divorce if the couple had been married for 10 years or more while the service member has been active duty military. Those military spouses who match this so-called 10/10 rule can get direct payments from the Defense Finance Accounting Service (DFAS). Following this federal law, up to 50% of the member's disposable retired pay may be done to the former spouse directly by the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, or Coast Guard.

Those who do not meet 10/10 requirement, also can be awarded a part of the military retirement pay, but the court will treat it as the service member's property and divide it on its own discretion, like in a civil divorce.

Custody, Child Support, and Spousal Support

Just like alimony, child support payments are regulated by state divorce laws and civil courts but carried out with the help of the Defense Finance and Accounting Service. It allows the service members to make a voluntary allotment, or to deduct amount automatically from pay.

As for custody arrangements, this issue is also must be decided within the Alabama Family Code. The type of custody, visitation hours, and other parental rights and liabilities may be determined with the help of an attorney, mediator or by the parents themselves in a case of uncontested divorce. Then, the child custody arrangement and parenting plan should be considered by the court on a case-by-case basis. However, if the ex-spouse tries to take advantage of a service member's stay on active duty and change the child custody type or terms, the deployed spouse may postpone the hearing and protect their rights under the SCRA.

How to Get Spousal Support in Military Divorce in Alabama?

Ordering and getting spousal support in military divorce in Alabama is possible in several ways:

  • Voluntary or Involuntary Allotment.
  • Garnishment.
  • Court order.

Usually, alimony payments should be made through the Defense Finance and Accounting Service as well. So, first, the court decides on alimony (following the same factors as in a civil divorce). And then, DFAS gets this court order and can allocate the particular amount of maintenance directly to the military member's ex-spouse.

Along with it, according to SCRA, such payments cannot be more than 50% of retired pay divided as property. Another 15% can be paid on a garnishment order like alimony or child support if a couple has minor kids.