In the state of Oklahoma, challenges arise in military divorce and child custody, because legislation that governs these issues is a blend of military regulations, federal law, and Oklahoma state laws. There are various federal laws and Oklahoma state legislation that apply in any proceeding in civil court, such as divorce, involving at least one individual who is a member of the U.S Armed Forces.
Military divorces and child custody cases have their own unique circumstances, and it is always beneficial for those involved to have a skilled military divorce attorney to walk them through the process. Military divorces often cause anxiety to the parties involved, but a knowledgeable legal professional can help to put their minds at ease.
The Process of Filing for a Military Divorce
The state or location where an individual files for a military divorce is important, as the state laws where they file applies to property division, spousal support, child support, child custody, and other facets of the process. In many cases, division of property in a military divorce applies to the division of property across multiple jurisdictions or states.
One of the complicating factors in division of property in military divorces is the value determination and location of the property. For instance, if a military member files for a military divorce in Oklahoma while stationed there, they are subject to the state’s equitable distribution legislation. On the other hand, if they were to file for divorce in Texas or Arizona, they would need to abide by community property laws.
Before an individual files for a military divorce in the state of Oklahoma, they must find out if jurisdiction exists. This means determining whether matters such as child custody and divorce can be heard or ruled on by the court. Determining the correct jurisdiction in which to file for a military divorce is based on where the couple is domiciled, stationed, or residing.
Jurisdiction for a military divorce is limited to three states, including the service member’s station, their “domicile,” or legal state of residence, or their resident state. If an individual wishes to file for a military divorce in Oklahoma, that person or their spouse is required to have lived in the state for six months before they can file. Military families can be separated across state lines or even farther due to military duties or orders, so it is vital to determine jurisdiction before proceeding. If Oklahoma is the proper state in which to file, the individual may file a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage in the appropriate county with that county’s court clerk.
Can the Service of Process in Military Divorce Be Challenged in Oklahoma?
When a civilian files for divorce from their military spouse in Oklahoma, the military member must be served personally with the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and summons. This is known as “service of process,” and it can be very complicated on military installations or in circumstances in which the military member is in a combat zone or stationed overseas. Service of process may be challenged, as the private process server is required to get permission from the commanders at the installation before they may come to personally serve the spouse. The matter may be even more complicated, as international laws apply if the service or process must take place abroad.
What Are SCRA Protections?
The SCRA is a federal law aimed at protecting military members’ various rights, known as the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. The basic purpose of the SCRA is to allow military members to maintain focus on their military mission and duties, knowing they are allowed to wait to appear in court to fight a divorce or defend themselves when they return home from their deployment. In combination with the Oklahoma Deployed Parents Custody and Visitation Act, the SCRA prevents military members from experiencing a default judgment in their divorce case. It is important to note the SCRA may delay child custody and divorce proceedings, but it does not cancel them.
Unknown Status of a Service Member
If the military status of the respondent-spouse is unknown, the SCRA provides options for the court, such as appointing an attorney as a representative of the service member whose status cannot be identified or applying the aforementioned protections that delay the proceedings. It is vital for any civilian spouse wishing to file for divorce to seek legal assistance if they cannot identify their spouse’s location.
How Are Spousal Support and Child Support Enforced in a Military Divorce?
If a service member fails to provide child or spousal support, the dependent spouse may raise the issue with the service member’s commanding officer. This is often the most efficient means of getting resolution, as opposed to taking the matter to court. Once the commander is notified of the service member’s failure to pay support, they may be punished for violating military regulations that require them to do so. Punishments may include:
- Reprimanding the military member, which places a permanent mark on their service record
- Forfeiting pay to the military member
- Criminally sanctioning the individual for failing to comply with military regulations
The commander may also schedule payments for support, but they are not permitted to address support arrearages or enforce them.
In certain situations, the military member may ask their commander for interim relief from paying support. This may be possible in circumstances in which the couple has lived completely apart and separately for a minimum of one year, the military member has met their support obligation, the civilian spouse has a gross monthly income that is greater than that of the service member, or the military spouse is a victim of domestic violence.
Dividing Property in a Military Divorce
In many cases, marital property and assets are spread across more than one state. In Oklahoma, however, family law judges are permitted to make decisions on property located outside of the state in military divorce cases, as long as jurisdiction is proper over the couple. Any separate assets one spouse has in another state, however, remains their separate assets.
Military Divorce Attorneys Are a Vital Asset
Anyone going through a military divorce quickly realizes there are many challenges and complications to face in addition to the stress any couple must deal with when their relationship has reached its end. The skilled and compassionate team at Stange Law Firm knows the nuances of military divorce and is ready to help. Visit our website today to find out how.