Georgia Divorce Laws for Military Personnel

By Heather Frances J.D.

Divorce is governed primarily by state law, so Georgia laws generally determine how divorce works in Georgia. There is no such thing as a military divorce, and military courts cannot grant divorces. However, federal laws give military members and their spouses certain benefits, and some of these laws affect divorce in state courts.

Divorce is governed primarily by state law, so Georgia laws generally determine how divorce works in Georgia. There is no such thing as a military divorce, and military courts cannot grant divorces. However, federal laws give military members and their spouses certain benefits, and some of these laws affect divorce in state courts.

Basic Requirements

Georgia offers 13 grounds for divorce, including the no-fault ground that the marriage is “irretrievably broken.” You or your spouse must be a resident of Georgia for at least six months before you can file, but that six-month requirement is extended to a year if you live on a military base. You can also qualify to file in the state if Georgia was the last place you and your spouse lived together. For example, if you both moved away from Georgia and now live in separate states, you may still qualify to file in Georgia if that was the last state where you lived together. Once you file your divorce paperwork, your spouse has the opportunity to respond to the papers you filed. Military members who cannot properly respond or appear in court because of military obligations have the right to receive a delay, or stay, of court proceedings for at least 90 days. This right is created by the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, a federal law. After the initial 90-day stay, judges have the option to grant a longer stay.

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Property Division

If you and your spouse agree on how you want your property divided in your divorce, you can create a settlement agreement listing those terms. Courts generally adopt such settlement agreements as part of the divorce. If you cannot agree, however, your divorce court will split your property equitably, though not necessarily equally. This equitable division applies to all marital property, which is property acquired during the marriage except by gift or inheritance.

Retirement Benefits

Retirement pensions are considered property, and a federal law allows state courts to divide military retirement pay along with your other property. This law, known as the Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act, also determines what military benefits you, as the non-military spouse, get to keep after your divorce. If you were married for at least 20 years, your spouse performed at least 20 years of military service, and there was at least 20 years of overlap between your marriage and your spouse’s military service, you qualify to keep many of your military benefits, including health care and exchange and commissary privileges.

Child Custody

Georgia courts determine child custody as part of all divorces involving children, but Georgia’s Military Parents Rights Act gives additional help to military parents fighting for child custody. Under older laws, a military parent’s time away from home counted against him in child custody disputes, but Georgia’s current law does not allow non-military parents to use military duty as the sole reason to ask a court for custody modifications. Judges are also prohibited from issuing final custody orders while military parents are deployed or within 90 days after they return.

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Military Divorce in North Carolina

References

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Spouse's Rights to Military Benefits

As a civilian spouse, your military benefits are typically based on your marital status and a divorce may mean losing those benefits. For example, you may have to give up military health insurance and the ability to shop at the exchange and commissary. However, federal law may allow you to keep these benefits if you have been married for at least 20 years. A divorce court can also award you a portion of your spouse’s retirement pay and can force your spouse to sign up for a plan that pays benefits to you if he dies after retirement.

Can a Soldier File for Divorce While in Iraq?

A soldier’s deployment can sometimes put a strain on his relationships, and a troubled marriage might not survive. It sometimes becomes necessary for a soldier to get a divorce while he is overseas. He cannot simply get a divorce in an Iraqi court, and he isn’t physically able to access an American court. However, it is possible – though possibly difficult – for a soldier to divorce while he is deployed.

Information on Getting Divorced While in the Marine Corps

Like civilians, Marines get divorced. But only civilian courts can grant divorce petitions, and the divorce process is generally the same for civilians and Marines. But the issues a Marine faces when divorcing can be more complicated than those in a civilian divorce, including finding the correct divorce court and figuring out what benefits the non-military spouse retains after the divorce. Both state and federal laws help sort these issues out.

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