Military life is tough enough when you’re single. When you have a family it presents many other challenges that aren’t always met with success. Pressures of moving regularly, one spouse may feel as if he or she has been abandoned while the other feels guilty about being gone a lot. It takes a toll. Relationships are easily strained, and divorce is often inevitable.
Most military members and their spouses are familiar with their JAG (Judge Advocate General) office and the services it provides. What some may not be aware of is that a JAG attorney cannot handle military divorce proceedings. They don’t have the proper jurisdiction to practice in state court, unless they are licensed by the State of North Carolina. Another fact to consider is that the timing of when you choose to file for divorce can have consequences if you don’t think it through.
Does it matter what state you file for divorce in?
A reality of military marriages is that you may not have control over where you’ll be living around the country, or even around the world at any given time. Different states have different procedural rules when it comes to divorce. Which rules you’ll be required to follow will take some planning.
Residency requirements will dictate the state in which you will be required to file for divorce. If you don’t meet the residency requirements of the state you’re living in at the time that you’ve decided to move forward, then you will have to file in the last state where you were a legal resident.
Just to complicate things a bit more, every state has its own time limits to meet the residency requirements. North Carolina requires that you reside in the state for at least six months prior to filing under most grounds for divorce. Your North Carolina family law attorney can shed some light on whether you need to wait a bit longer based upon the reason for ending your marriage.
A small number of states have more lenient residency requirements. You may be thinking “I’ll just run off to Vegas for a weekend to get a quickie divorce.” It’s not like the movies. Even Nevada has residency requirements. If you have any complications, like a military pension or children, you’re better off just waiting it out in North Carolina where legal help is close by.
What is the difference between a community property state and an equitable distribution state?
Both of these terms describe the property division rules a state follows during divorce proceedings. The primary difference is that community property is split equally between you and your spouse, while equitable distribution provides that property be divvied up fairly – not necessarily in equal shares.
Your state of residency will dictate the type of property division you’ll be obliged to follow, unless you and your spouse can come to a mutual agreement as to how to divide everything, or you have a valid premarital agreement.
A community property state views all property accumulated during your marriage by either spouse to be part of the marital estate. Each of you will walk away with 50% regardless of fault. In other words, in California, whether you or your spouse was unfaithful, you still get half of everything. This includes your spouse’s military pension, regardless of length of marriage.
North Carolina is an equitable distribution state. This means that if you are a North Carolina resident at the time you file for a military divorce, you will be under the jurisdiction of North Carolina family court rules for dividing your personal belongings such as home furnishings and vehicles, real property, and financial assets.
Under North Carolina statute § 50-20, there are numerous factors the court takes into consideration when determining the split of marital property. Length of marriage, financial dependency, education of the parties, whether children are involved are just some of the criteria the court looks at in deciding how much you’ll be entitled to walk away with.
Speak with a Charlotte family law attorney who understands the complicated issues that come with military divorces. The knowledgeable attorneys at Epperson Law Group, PLLC have helped North Carolina military families through tough times with the dignity and respect that they deserve. To schedule your consultation in our Charlotte, Boone or Weddington office, call 704-321-0031 or we invite you to reach out to us through our contact page.