Residency Requirement To File for Divorce In Alabama


The residency requirement in Alabama, to file for divorce is six months. The intricate issue that comes up in a military divorce is that you could be stationed somewhere else from your home of record, or you could have property in another state, or due to military service you have made another state your home state and become a resident of that state. Basically, you can file in the state where the service member is currently stationed, or if you meet the six-month residency requirement in Alabama, you can file in the state where the service member claims legal residency, or sometimes the spouse can file where the non-military spouse resides while the service member is deployed or TDY to another location. Sometimes the service member can object using the Service member’s Civil Relief Act protections, however, other times the service member wants the divorce to be done as quickly as possible and therefore does not raise any objection.

As an example, let’s say that a 20-year-old girl meets a JAG officer who's training in Montgomery. They are both from Huntsville, but they meet in Montgomery. She follows him to North Carolina, to Rhode Island, and to Texas. Eventually, after they have children, he becomes abusive. She comes back home to Huntsville and has been living there for six months with the children, while he's still off serving. She would likely want to file in Alabama to get jurisdiction where she's going to have her support network. There are a lot of strategic and tactical decisions that need to be made when deciding where to file when you have a military member who’s serving all over the country.

What If My Spouse And I Are Living In Different States At The Time We Want To File For Divorce? Where Do I File?

In a situation where the spouses live in different states, I file wherever it benefits my client. There are jurisdictional issues created by the inherent transitional nature of the military life and you want your military divorce lawyer to thoroughly understand and be capable of properly analyzing those issues.

As another example on deciding where to file, Alabama used to have a 10-year requirement before the Court could even divide military retirement. That meant that the marriage had to be at least 10 years long before retirement assets could be divided. In that case, if you're in the military and your largest asset is your military retirement, and you've been married for nine years, you would want to file in Alabama. Because in Alabama during the divorce your military retirement pension would be off the table! Unfortunately for some that law was changed recently but you’ve got to look at factors like that.

Now, in Alabama, we have a law that says retirement assets are divisible just like anything else and there's no time prohibition for dividing those assets. However, if you’re in Alabama (or whatever State you are considering and capable of filing in), you still want to consider whether filing in that particular state is going to be cheaper than filing in other potential state(s) and make the best decision based on your individual circumstances.

If My Spouse Is Serving Overseas, Do I Need To Wait To File For A Divorce?

You don't have to wait to file for divorce, if your spouse is serving overseas. A problem that may be encountered is the Service members Civil Relief Act (SCRA). When someone is serving overseas, if I'm representing the spouse and they want to file for divorce, I tell them we can absolutely still file after we determine strategically that is the best course of action. (Oftentimes it makes sense to wait until the service member returns from overseas.)

On the other hand, when I am representing a service member who is serving overseas who has been served with divorce papers, I tell them that they need to get a SCRA letter, which is a stay letter from the commander. Then, I can convey that letter to the court, in order for them to get the protections afforded them by federal law to stay the proceedings against them. It really does not make any sense for a service member to have to deal with divorce while they are overseas serving our country. A skilled military divorce lawyer should do everything in their power to ensure that Soldier, Sailor, Marine and/or Airman’s divorce is continued so the military member can focus on what is important until they return back home safely. That is certainly my practice!

The intent of SCRA is that we don't want military members overseas fighting a war and also having to worry about civil matters at home. A spouse can file for divorce but, most likely, what's going to happen is a SCRA stay will be issued and then the court will not address the divorce until the military member is back in the country. From a strategic standpoint, if my client is hit with a divorce while they're serving overseas, I certainly try to portray the other side as callous and unpatriotic by having the audacity to serve my client, who is serving our country overseas, with a divorce, therefore taking them away from the mission at hand.

Is Where You File A Military Divorce Important?

When deciding where to file for divorce, you’ve got to look at the state law and see if there's any benefit to filing in one state versus another. It’s an important consideration that you want an attorney to be able to examine on the front end. For example, North Carolina, has a required separation period of a year. When people are ready to get divorced, they don’t want to wait a whole year. In Alabama, there's no legal separation period. You can file for divorce, even when you are still living together so long as you can represent you are separated and intend to terminate the marriage. Those are the kinds of considerations you want to have your attorney look at before you file for divorce.

For more information on Residency Requirement For A Military Divorce, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (256)533-8074 today.