The Basics of a North Carolina Military Divorce

In North Carolina, divorce processes and laws may differ for military service members. Here’s everything you need to know about military divorce in North Carolina.

Service members and civilians have different societal obligations and benefits. Due to the circumstances of service members, specific laws regarding the divorce process and requirements apply. The North Carolina court may grant service members’ and their spouses specific exceptions and obligations in a military divorce.

North Carolina Requirements for a Military Divorce

The requirements of a military divorce in North Carolina may differ slightly from the civilian divorce requirements. To divorce in North Carolina, spouses must separate for at least one year, and one party must be a resident of North Carolina for six months. The North Carolina court considers spouses as separated when they live apart and do not act as a married couple. Spouses may bypass the one-year waiting period under specific circumstances such as adultery, abandonment, addiction, incurable insanity, or abuse.

The one-year separation period still applies to spouses in a military divorce. Spouses filing for a military divorce may meet the residency requirement if the military spouse is on active duty or under government orders to live in North Carolina.

Related: North Carolina Marriage Laws

Laws Applicable to a North Carolina Military Divorce

Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA)

The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, or UCCJEA, is a federal law specifying which court has jurisdiction over a child custody case. The UCCJEA ensures parents who move frequently, such as an active service member, do not obtain contradictory orders from courts in different states. Spouses may benefit from the UCCJEA in a military divorce in deciding which court can assign child custody orders or confirm any child custody agreements.

Service members Civil Relief Act (SCRA)

The Service members Civil Relief Act, or SCRA, is a United States federal law protects service members from adhering to some civilian obligations. The SCRA may reduce, postpone, or terminate civilian obligations for service members.

In a military divorce, the SCRA may protect active-duty service members from any obligations regarding filing any divorce or support proceedings while on deployment. The North Carolina court may grant service members a 90-day extension beyond the traditional 30-day period the court allows to respond to divorce papers.

Related: North Carolina Spousal Support Laws: Calculating Alimony

Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act (USFSPA)

The Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act, or USFSPA, defines a service member’s spouse’s military benefits in a military divorce. The former spouse of a service member may receive military retirement benefits after a marriage of at least ten years when the service member performed at least ten years of service.

The USFSPA also enforces the 20/20/20 rule. Under the 20/20/20 rule, a former military spouse may receive full military benefits, such as a portion of retirement and TRICARE medical benefits, if at least 20 years of the marriage and 20 years of the service member’s service coincide.

FAQs About Military Divorce in North Carolina: The Basics

How does a divorce filing differ between civilian and military divorces in North Carolina?

Military and civilian spouses follow similar processes to file for a divorce. To file for divorce in North Carolina, spouses must file a complaint requesting a divorce, a summons, a Domestic Civil Action Cover Sheet, and an affidavit pursuant to the SCRA. The affidavit must inform the court if either spouse is in the military.

The SCRA will apply to the divorce proceedings if the affidavit confirms the servicemember spouse’s active-duty status. Under the SCRA, a service member can request multiple 90-day extensions to the divorce process.

Are military benefits subject to North Carolina equitable distribution laws?

North Carolina is an equitable distribution state. Under equitable distribution laws, the North Carolina court aims to divide property equitably and fairly, not necessarily equally. A service member’s military retirement and benefits may be subject to an equitable distribution of property division under the USFSPA. The USFSPA allows a service member’s former spouse to receive military benefits if at least ten years of the marriage and service member’s service coincide or if the marriage meets the requirements of the 20/20/20 rule.
Does the North Carolina court have child custody and visitation exceptions for service members?

Child custody and visitation orders do not differ significantly in military and civilian divorces. A service member’s circumstances may alter child custody or visitation arrangements. A custody agreement may allow a service member to receive transportation compensation for visitation or virtual visitations.

The North Carolina court may also assign an active-duty service member’s visitation to a relative with a close relationship to the child. Additionally, the court may schedule visitation make-up hours before or after a service member’s deployment.

Contact Us

If you or a loved one would like to learn more about military divorce in North Carolina, get your free consultation with one of our divorce attorneys today!