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Obtaining or initializing a divorce when you’re in the service or married to a service member has its own unique set of challenges and obstacles. According to an issue of the American Bar newsletter, “there are unique rules that must be followed about dividing a military pension, serving papers on the service member, enforcing support, and getting a divorce.” To serve a summons and petition for divorce in most cases if your soon-to-be-ex spouse is in the military, you’ll follow standard civil procedure rules that correspond to your geographical jurisdiction. Yet if your spouse is stationed overseas, this can be trickier. According to the American Bar Association, you can sometimes serve the defendant (your spouse) “by registered or certified U.S. mail if the host nation (where he is stationed) doesn’t object.” This is likely because the chances are that your spouse will have an APO or FPO address, “which belong to the U.S. military.”
If this is possible, it makes it easier, but in some cases, it’s not. Hiring a qualified expert will allow you to determine just how to you can begin the proceedings, and how to go forward with your case. If your spouse’s country of residence does not allow a divorce petition to be filed by U.S. mail, “you must comply with the Hague Convection on Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents if the place is a signatory to the Convention.” Some countries, such as Germany, require that any legal documents sent to a service member serving there be translated into German. Be sure to go through the Hague Convention with your lawyer.
You’ll then have to be able to convince your spouse to come back to the U.S. for the initial hearing. According to the American Bar Association, the best way to do this is to attempt to convince him or her to use some of his 30 days of annual paid leave. “Use discovery,” suggests the newsletter, “to get a copy of his pay statement, known as the Leave and Earnings Statement” to get a better handle on how many days he has left to use.
The most important first step in any divorce, whether one party is in the military or not, is to contact a dedicated family law attorney. Don’t go through it alone. Get in touch with our offices today.