What is the jurisdiction for service members for divorce cases?

Most people in the military retain their civilian domicile as their home, but this question can become more difficult when the military spouse has made frequent moves or is deployed overseas.

In general, a divorcing military couple has three choices in dealing with jurisdiction: 1) the state where the divorcing spouse resides; 2) the state where the military spouse is stationed; 3) the state where the military spouse claims legal residence, which may be where he or she plans to live after discharge or in retirement.

In this, either spouse -- the military or the civilian -- may file for divorce in any of the three states and the grounds for divorce and the property distribution are governed by the laws of the jurisdiction where the action is filed.

Many states permit a military member or civilian spouse to file in the state where the military member is stationed. This means that, for example, that it is possible for a couple to obtain a divorce even though neither of them is a true resident of the state. Some states reduce or eliminate the residency requirement for military divorces. So if a party lives in North Carolina, for example, which is where she and her husband married and made a home, clearly his domicile is North Carolina. On the other hand, if she lived in North Carolina, where her husband entered the military, and then, during her separation, she moved to Virginia, she can expect Virginia to have jurisdiction over her husband. In this case, there would be two likely states with jurisdiction -- North Carolina and Virginia.

In general, for most divorces, a civilian spouse must determine the service member’s domicile or state where the service member has legal residence. SCRA permits service members to keep the domicile they had when they entered the military.

Again, this is can become a complicated question, and legal advice is a good idea.