Ask A Divorce Lawyer: Military Divorce

Question: I am asking this on behalf of my son. My son is active duty Navy based on active deployment on an aircraft carrier based in Japan. His wife is in the states, Shreveport, LA. His state of residency is Texas, he was sent to Japan right after they married, a little over 2 years ago. He had to earn a higher rank and go through several processes to get permit for her to come to Japan. He did so and then she decided not to go, now he cannot get that permit again as he goes back to the states next September.

There is a great chance that she will serve him with a divorce. From what I understand, Navy lawyers do not handle divorce cases, that jurisdiction goes back to the states. This is a tough one for him. When the carrier goes out for maneuvers, they could be out to sea for 3 months running. I do not know how to advise him. The question is: how should he proceed in light of the fact that her behavior indicates that the marriage is over. He wants to be in a good position to have control over his divorce because if she takes control it will be hard for him to respond while on active duty.

Answer: Jurisdiction for a divorce generally is where either party has lived for the necessary period of time required by state law.  As his wife lives in Louisiana, she may be able to file for divorce in Louisiana.   The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act allows the court to postpone any divorce litigation until he can return from active duty to participate in the case.  The specifics of his assignment and other factors may affect how long the divorce can be postponed, should his wife file.

Your son may want to waive his right to protection under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act and file for divorce on his own now to limit the accumulation of marital assets and debts, particularly the marital portion of his military benefits.  Your son should try to arrange a telephone consultation with a qualified family law firm in Texas, such as Cordell & Cordell, to assess his options and possible strategies.


Richard Coffee is a Litigation Manager in the Belleville Illinois office of Cordell & Cordell. He is an experienced divorce attorney whose practice is devoted to domestic litigation. He is licensed in the State of Illinois and is admitted to practice law in the U.S. District Courts for Northern, Central and Southern Illinois.

Mr. Coffee has extensive domestic litigation trial experience representing clients in courts throughout Illinois on all aspects of domestic litigation, including the representation of clients who are current or retired military personnel with issues under the Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act and the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act, clients involved in state court jurisdictional disputes due to the relocation of one or both parties from or to Illinois, and clients with government or private pension benefit valuation and division issues.

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