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Under the Soldier and Sailors Relief Act can I ignore my divorce?

Let's say you're a military service member on active duty and you were recently served your divorce papers. Does the Soldiers and Sailors Relief Act allow you to disregard your divorce?

The hard and fast answer to this question is "no." You never want to ignore divorce papers, no matter what your military status happens to be. You'll need to take the proactive step of notifying the family law court where your divorce has been served that your current status is "active duty."

An attorney can help you notify the court. He or she can also help you file a motion to postpone your divorce hearing.

You cannot simply ignore the service of your divorce papers, and it's important to keep in mind that the right to postponement offered by the Soldier and Sailors Relief Act is not a permanent delay. You will eventually need to deal with and finalize your divorce process.

Additionally, depending on the nature of your active duty, a good piece of advice is to delay your proceedings for the minimum amount of time necessary. It could be in your best interest -- emotionally and financially -- to finalize your divorce as quickly as possible. Indeed, the more money you earn in the military, and the more time you spend qualifying for retirement benefits, the more your spouse could be entitled to during the asset division process.

This importance of resolving your divorce quickly is especially true for military service members who have been married for years and who may be close to the line of needing to do a half-and-half split of their retirement benefits with their spouses.

If you need help, guidance or advice for a military divorce, a family law attorney who regularly works with military service members can be of great assistance. When selecting a divorce lawyer to represent you, be sure to ask about his or her level of experience in dealing with active members of the United States armed forces.

Source: The Balance, "Military Divorce and Separation," Erik Bjornson, accessed March 31, 2017

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