As that active duty person, you have the option to kind of choose two different venues. There are a couple of different things that come to play, and I always caution folks about the different areas. First of all, if you have children, there is an act called the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, which deals with custody of a child. What the act says is, wherever the child has been living for the last six months, that is the state of residence for the child. It doesn’t really matter where you are deployed to or where you have been living. The court needs to have contacts with people that have been around the child.
The courts in most of the states have adopted this Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act. It’s something that is going to come up in most states. If the child has been living in a state for a certain amount of time and child custody is going to be an issue, then I would say the active duty person needs to file where the child has been living. If there’s no children, then you can really choose your state if the active duty person wants to file in the state where they have been stationed, because it’s a little bit easier to get a divorce there.
For instance, in a state like Virginia, you have to be separated for a year. In a state like North Carolina, you have to be separated for six months before you can get divorce. In Florida, where I practice, you can get a divorce within 20 days. A lot of folks that are stationed here in Florida, even though their residency may be in North Carolina or Virginia, they would want to file their divorce here, and they can do that as long as they have actually lived in Florida for six months. That’s another consideration: how quickly you’re trying to get your divorce done. Then there are a couple other considerations, so you want to talk to an attorney about it to make sure you choose the correct venue. If you’re on active duty, you have a couple of different options regarding where you can file for divorce.
Ginger L. Dugan, a family lawyer at All Family Law Group in Tampa, Florida, has 10 years of experience in family law and handling complex cases.