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Where can service members file for divorce?

When a couple in Virginia seek to end their marriage, at least one of them generally must reside in the Commonwealth for a certain amount of time before they can dissolve their marriage. However, Virginia is home to many service members, some of whom may be on active duty outside the Commonwealth or abroad. How do the residency requirements apply when a service member wishes to divorce?

In general, service members have three options when it comes to which state they can file for divorce in. One option is the state where the spouse filing for divorce resides. Another option is the state where the service member is stationed. Finally, the third option is the state in which the service member claims legal residency. The state in which divorce is filed is the state whose laws regarding divorce legal issues will apply.

In addition, if a service member is on active duty, and his or her spouse initiates divorce proceedings, the service member can pursue a stay, that is, a temporary stop, to the divorce proceedings, per the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA). The purpose of the stay is to allow the service member to focus on serving their nation without fearing a judgment will be made against them since they cannot be present at court proceedings.

There are other ways that a military divorce differs from a civilian divorce. Residency requirements and stays under the SCRA are only two issues present in a military divorce. Those who are pursuing a military divorce can seek more information on how the law will apply to their specific circumstances. This way, they can better understand their rights.

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