Divorce is unfortunately common in military families. Some marriages cannot survive the long separations, stresses, and challenges that come with the territory of military service. Although South Carolina is known for making it a challenge to divorce, there are rules and exceptions in place to protect service members and ease the transition of getting a divorce.
South Carolina Military Divorce Laws
The Palmetto State makes a specific clarification to the state’s residency requirement for military divorces. Normally, one or both spouses must establish residency by living in South Carolina for 12 months to have jurisdiction in the state. However, South Carolina will allow a service member to file for divorce in the state if they have been stationed on a South Carolina military base for a year, including off-shore naval ships, even if they do not intend to remain in the state.
South Carolina will grant a default divorce judgment to spouses who receive no response to their complaint within thirty days of service. However, federal law protects members of the armed services from default divorce judgments while on active deployment and up to 90 days post deployment. Federal laws also prohibit state courts from garnishing any part of a military pension unless the couple was married for at least ten years of the veteran’s active service.
Child Custody, Spousal Support, and Division of Assets
Military divorces carry with them special circumstances for child custody and support issues. When one spouse is active-duty military facing long deployments, the judge must take this into consideration when deciding what is in the best interest of the child. Although every case is unique, many times a judge will award full custody to the non-military parent to mitigate the upheaval caused by constant relocating and deployment experienced by children of service members.
It is not uncommon for an American service member to marry someone overseas and raise their children abroad. International child custody cases are especially challenging. In most cases, jurisdiction remains with the court in the state or country the child lives in. Unless the child has lived primarily in South Carolina for at least a year, the state is unlikely to have jurisdiction over the case.
Spousal support is a big issue in military divorces, as non-military spouses frequently sacrifice education and career advancement to hold down the home front. Child support and alimony may be a little more complicated to calculate since military “income” is not as straightforward as a civilian job. A service member’s income may include “base pay” (regular paycheck), hazard pay, a basic allowance for housing (BAH), and non-monetary compensation, such as room and board.
Likewise, marital property in a military divorce often looks a little different than civilian cases. Many military families do not own real estate because they move around so frequently. However, the military offers retirement, insurance, and survivor benefits that may be considered marital property in a divorce. Federal laws may prevent an ex-spouse from recovering some of these assets. A lawyer experienced in military divorces can advise you on the rules and laws that apply to your situation.
Reach Out to Us Today for Help with Your Case
Military divorces involve some unique issues and can be a confusing, complicated process. Contact McCoy & Stokes, LLC in Charleston, SC for the legal support you need during this difficult time.