Military Divorce in Pennsylvania

Military divorce proceedings and civilian divorce proceedings share many of the same characteristics. However, there are some differences that are essential to understand when pursuing a divorce.

Grounds for Military Divorce

The grounds for a military divorce – or the reasons for which a person legally can pursue a divorce – are the same as the grounds for a civilian. This includes a divorce based on fault. Below are some of the specific grounds on which a person can seek a fault-based divorce.

  • Willful and malicious desertion and absence for at least a year
  • Adultery
  • Cruel and barbarous treatment
  • Entering a bigamous marriage
  • Sentence of imprisonment for at least two years
  • Rendering indignities that make the other spouse’s life intolerable or burdensome

You also may seek a divorce on the grounds of institutionalization of one spouse for at least 18 months. Mutual consent is acceptable grounds, as well as an irretrievably broken marriage.

Serving Papers to a Military Member

Whenever one partner in a marriage wishes to file, the filing spouse must serve a divorce petition to the other spouse (respondent). In the military, the same laws apply. If you’re divorcing an active-duty military member, you must serve a petition for divorce (summons and divorce action), regardless of whether or not he or she is out of the state or country.

The only time when a military member does not have to be served divorce papers is in the case that the divorce is consensual. In this case, the military member can sign an affidavit acknowledging the divorce.

Laws Protecting Active Military Members

When a civilian is served a divorce action, he or she is legally obligated to respond. Failing to respond to a the action is known as defaulting. When a person defaults on his or her divorce action, he or she typically loses the right to argue during proceedings regarding property division, child custody, etc.

However, because many military members on active duty are unable to respond to a divorce action (or other civil legal actions taken against them) in a timely manner, they have certain protections. The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act allows military members to suspend legal proceedings for the entire duration of active duty and then for another 60 days after that. The military member may waive this right, however.

Also keep in mind that there is a 90-day waiting period for military divorces if the defendant is on full-time duty.

Child Support and Spousal Support

Child support and spousal support payments are key elements of many divorces in Pennsylvania. Child support payments are determined based on statewide guidelines that consider the reasonable needs of the child and the spouse receiving the child support. Spousal support depends on the circumstances of the case.

However, while a military divorce must use the same considerations when determining child support and spousal support amounts, such payments cannot exceed more than 60 percent of a military member’s pay and allowances.

Contact Our Lawyers Today

If you’re considering getting a divorce and are a military member or are married to a military member, there are additional laws and considerations that do not apply to civilians. If you have questions about how military status may affect your divorce or if you need legal help, consult the attorneys at ARM Lawyers, LLC. We offer a free case consultation to go over your case and answer your questions.