If someone’s spouse is currently deployed overseas, can he or she still file for divorce?

By Carolyn Grimes
September 28, 2016

If your spouse is deployed, you can file for divorce. You need to be sure you’re in the right jurisdiction. Here's a common thing that happens: If you're married to a sailor – he's off at sea for six months – you don't want to stay in Norfolk where the Atlantic fleet is headquartered in Virginia. You go home to Oklahoma to mom and take the kids, because why should you be there for six months?

Generally, most states’ law is that the last place you lived together as husband and wife is a place to file for divorce, so don't file for divorce in Oklahoma. You need to file for divorce back in Virginia because Virginia, for example, also has a special term in its jurisdiction code that allows its courts to have jurisdiction over military members for where they were stationed. If they get deployed out of Norfolk, Virginia is their residency for purposes of filing for divorce.

There are a couple other wrinkles about the retirement that I'll get to later, but basically you can file for divorce. Getting them served is a little bit difficult if they're in Afghanistan. You're not going to get them served because you’re not going to a private process server and government is kind of busy. They're not going to spend their time serving process. If they're assigned to Europe, you can just tell command to have them served. To have them served, you can hire a private process server in Europe and countries that were British colonies because they have the same system of law that we do.

They have process servers and notary publics. It's difficult, and you may want to consider not filing for divorce when they're deployed because that starts the time-clock ticking on your marriage ending, but it's not impossible. The issue where this usually arises is if you don't get any money while they're deployed. If you're not receiving the pay allotment, which you should be, you can contact command and they will have the allotment sent to the spouse who’s still at home.


Carolyn Grimes is a family lawyer at the law firm of Wade Grimes Friedman Sutter & Leischner PLLC in Alexandria, Virginia. To learn more about Grimes and her firm, visit www.oldtownlawyers.com.

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September 28, 2016
Categories:  FAQs

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