Governing Magazine reports that in August 2013, there were over 37,000 active military personnel living in Colorado. As a result, divorces involving service members and their spouses inevitably arise and require special consideration compared to divorces between civilians. While military divorces do proceed in civil court, there are some special circumstances that apply.
Since members of the military frequently move, there may be uncertainty as to jurisdiction. According to the United States Air Force Academy Legal Office, at least one of the spouses must be a resident of Colorado for 90 days prior to filing for divorce. Take, for instance, a couple that was married in California, but then lived in both Arizona and Texas before relocating to Colorado. For the service member to be considered a resident, their Leave & Earnings Statement must list Colorado as his or her state of residence. For a civilian spouse to be a resident, he or she must have a Colorado driver's license. The person initiating the divorce does not have to be the one who is a resident; the divorce may take place in Colorado as long as either party is a resident.
There are federal laws that govern military divorce in Colorado. Many of these laws were put into place to prevent a member of the military from being served with divorce or other papers without their knowledge. Troops on active duty are exempt from having to respond to divorce papers while they are serving and have a grace period of up to 60 days after they return. They may also waive that right and allow the proceedings to go forward if they desire.
Additionally, federal laws are in place to cover property division in military divorces, particularly with respect to military members' pensions and retirement pay. The length of the marriage and the length of the spouse's service will be factored into any such division. Colorado also has specific laws in place governing child custody and visitation rights for military members.
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