You can get divorced while deployed

Our law firm, Phillips Law, PLLC, has many clients who are either in the military or who are spouses to military members.  For our new self-help legal service, go to Most of our clients have some affiliation with the 101st Airborne Division (AASLT).  Since 911, the military has been operating at a very high OPTEMPO.  This means almost all of our military clients will experience a deployment to Southeast Asia at some point in their careers.  This also means that many of our clients who have deployed repeatedly will go through at least one divorce.There is a myth among many military lawyers and military members that soldiers cannot get divorced while they are deployed.  In many states, this is not true and in Tennessee this is definitely not true.  We frequently get our clients divorced when one of the parties is deployed.

For our Tennessee clients, in order to get the divorce while deployed, a couple of things must happen.  One, the divorce will have to be uncontested.  This means that the two sides will have to agree on a Marital Dissolution Agreement that splits all of the marital property. Two, if they have kids, they will have to have a parenting plan completed, with the appropriate child support under the Tennessee Child Support Guidelines.  If the two parties agree to all of this, a civilian lawyer can file the paperwork as an irreconcilable divorce and have the couple divorced in about 90 days.

Although some Tennessee Counties require testimony for an uncontested divorce, where the parties come in and testify that they will be unable to reconcile, this testimony can normally be accomplished by the servicemember through the use of interrogatories.  Interrogatories are a series of sworn written question and answers that are presented to the court.  The judge has the ability to accept this interrogatories instead of using live testimony.

The one issue that can develop is that getting the paperwork back and forth to the deployed soldier can add additional time to the entire process.  With the use of email, this can keep things going at a quick clip.  Generally, the mail from Iraq takes seven to ten days to get here if our clients need to mail us sworn originals.

Lawyers and servicemembers do need to be careful about the timing of filing for divorce.  The Servicemember is protected from many aspects of divorce under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act.  The SCRA protects soldiers from final judgement while they are deployed, although many temporary hearings are authorized despite their deployment.  This is why the soldier must be careful not to “make an appearance” before the court.  This can be done by filing the original complaint for divorce or by filing a response or counter-complaint.  Once the soldier is in front of the judge, he may have to pay child support or spousal support despite being deployed.

For contested divorces, where there must be a trial, much of the work of divorce, the discovery aspects can be completed while the soldier is in Iraq.  Many of my special forces clients go and come back throughout the pendency of the divorce.  But, for soldiers who are not able to participate in a contested divorce, they will probably be forced to sit and wait for redeployment.

Filed under: Alimony, Attorney, Children, Contested divorce, Custodial Parent, Custody, Default Judgment, Deployment, Depositions, Divorce, Divorce Attorney, Divorce Lawyer, Divorce Transcript, Divorce Trial, Divorce packets online, Final Decree, Iraq, Lawyer, MDA, Marital Dissolution Agreement, Mediation, Motion for Support, Online divorce service, Parenting Plan, Primary Residential Parent, SCRA, Servicemembers civil relief act, Tennessee Child Support Guidelines, Tennessee

4 thoughts on “You can get divorced while deployed

  1. I have found what you’re saying to be true here in Idaho as well. I have had good luck with a cooperative servicemember in preparing documents, finalizing documents and accepting service via email. This has worked both in divorces and custody modifications. I have also had some luck convincing the Courts here to enter default judgment (in compliance with the terms of the SCRA, of course) against an uncooperative servicemember. Good idea about using discovery to pin down the details of a custody plan and property division.

  2. The issue of divorce in the military and child custody issues has finally gotten the attention of legislators and lots of good sutf was passed in Oct. 2009. What al of the new codes, law,s etc revolved around was international child abduction in the military. As a Supreme Court Referred mediators specializing in cross border family abductions, I can’t express how very happy I am that this is being addressed. The State Department/OCI case load has doubled since last year! As a Virginia resident this issue hits home. As well, I developed a curriculum that was approved by the ABA and Office of the Executive Secretary and began training in VA last month. WHile many judges, lawyers, and mediators have been in attendence – not a single attendee worked for or with military families. This is an outrage. Our military families need more than just laws passed.They need competent professional service providers.

  3. In contrast to a contested divorce situation, an uncontested divorce or “answer/waiver divorce” is the relatively smooth process by which parties can settle on an agreement of the various major and minor issues that will affect their lives going forward after a divorce. Those possible issues include child custody, visitation, child support, division of property and assets, alimony, tax implications, specific provisions concerning behavior around the children and the like. Once agreed upon by the parties, the terms are submitted to the Court along with various other documents for approval by a Circuit Court Judge.

    You and your spouse do not necessarily each need a divorce attorney in an uncontested divorce situation. There is a legal means by which one attorney can file paperwork for both Husband and Wife, if the other agrees. This often helps cut the costs of the proceeding when both parties are in agreement about the terms and are trying to keep the expense of the process low.

    It is extremely important to enlist the help of an experienced attorney in this situation. One will never understand the power of a few little words to change lives more than when a person sees a divorce agreement carried out by a domestic relations judge. Often times the placement, addition or subtraction of one small word can mean a world of difference in someone’s case and in their life. Mistakes and omissions in agreements can be costly and have serious ramifications years down the line.

  4. Thanks for this. My husband decided to stop supporting the children and me after deployment. I am trying to get more than the Army’s joke of “child support” (I could get more from welfare checks if only I could prove I were single). Tip to soldiers: if you want to make some bank during deployment, just open up a separate bank account and let your kids and wife fend for themselves. She can’t do a darn thing and if you spend it all or hide it before court, you’re good as gold.

    This information is very helpful. I need to get a divorce so I can get benefits and pay taxes for me and my children. I will have to file married-separately which will be a nightmare, and even then I might be liable if he decides not to file. 😦 I have *got* to get this divorce through if I don’t want to lose the small amount of stuff I have for my kids and pull them out of their daycare.

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