North Carolina has several military bases in the state, and thousands of members of the Armed Forces and their families call the Tarheel State home. If one or both spouses are in the military and they choose to divorce while living in North Carolina, the process isn’t too different than civilian divorce. However, there are a few key differences, and to help you understand the process, our military divorce attorneys in New Bern are here to provide you with the experienced counsel and representation you need.
Filing for a Military Divorce
While military courts handle most legal issues, they don’t grant divorce, so this, along with any issues related to property distribution and child custody will go through a civilian court in the county in which you live. In North Carolina, you must be separated from your partner for 12 months and one day, and a permanent resident of the state for six months in order to file for divorce.
Being stationed in North Carolina alone may not mean you’re a permanent residence. Having your voter registration, a North Carolina driver’s license, and your car registered in the state do help you prove residency, though.
Serving a Spouse on Active Duty
Typically, your spouse has 30 days to respond to having divorce papers served, but if they are on active duty and deployed in a hostile area, this can complicate the matter. They may not be able to receive the papers, and if this is the case, they must submit a request in writing as well as submit proof that their military service prevents them from responding to the papers. If this request is approved, they can extend the response period to 90 days.
Property Distribution and Division of Military Benefits
North Carolina is an equitable distribution state, so if the terms of your property distribution are settled by the court, they will determine what is fair, taking into account the spouses’ incomes and earning potential, child custody, and health. In addition to property and possessions, having military benefits adds additional challenges as military pension and benefits may factor into the divorce settlement.
Under the Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act, if the couple was married for at least ten years and the spouse in the military served for 10 creditable years, the other spouse may receive a portion of direct pension. If the marriage was at least 20 years and the spouse served 20 years, the other spouse may receive full pension, commissary privileges, and healthcare through TRICARE.
Child Custody During a Military Divorce
Child custody during a military divorce is generally still determined using the same guidelines as civilian divorce with the judge looking out for the child’s well being and best interests. However, there will need to be factors included in the custody arrangement such as who will pay for travel if the parents live far apart and how the visitation schedule will work if one of the spouses is deployed or if missed visitation time can be made up.
Also, child support is determined similarly to how it is in civilian divorce, with the payment amount based on income, the amount of custody, and other factors. What separates military divorce is that if the parent who is supposed to pay fails to do so, the former spouse may seek assistance from both the court and the commanding officer. Failure to pay can lead to disciplinary action in the military.
Choosing a Military Divorce Attorney
There are military attorneys who are available to service members and spouses, but they can only provide counsel and advice related to legal issues. They are unable to represent you in court or file divorce paperwork on your behalf.
Instead, having a military divorce attorney to represent you and provide personalized legal counsel can lead to a more favorable outcome. An attorney will be more knowledgeable of your rights and what kind of benefits you may be entitled to, or help you create a custody plan that will be beneficial to every member of the family. Before signing divorce papers or agreeing to terms, it’s important to have an experienced military divorce lawyer on your side who can ensure you’re not leaving anything on the table, because once the divorce is finalized, it’s nearly impossible to go back and claim property, spousal support, or change custody arrangements.
Schedule a Consultation with Our Military Divorce Attorneys in New Bern
If you are ready to file for divorce and you or your spouse are a member of the Armed Forces, reach out to the military divorce lawyers at Irons & Irons, P.A. We have the knowledge and experience to help you navigate the process and ensure your rights are protected every step of the way.
If you are ready to schedule an initial consultation, call our experienced divorce attorneys at 252-320-7399 or contact us by using the form below.
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