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Jurisdiction in Massachusetts military divorce versus civilian

Due to the stresses that many military families face with deployment, frequent moving and other stressful situations, it is common for spouses and their families connected to the military to experience a divorce. Divorce for military people and regular civilians are often equally as uncomplicated. However, there are certain rules and regulations that apply to military divorces that do not apply to the conventional civilian divorce. One of these applicable differences in military divorce concerns the topic of jurisdiction.

Jurisdiction is a fancy-sounding word that equates to the “authority” of a court to hear a case. In the case of the majority of civilian divorces, jurisdiction resides only in the divorcing couple’s state of residency.

Military divorce is different, in that, many military families have multiple options of bringing the case to court since there can be several places of jurisdiction. For example, for many military personnel, jurisdiction may be the place where the person holds legal residence, even if the service member is stationed elsewhere in the United States or beyond.

Jurisdiction could even be found where the filing spouse lives, even if they are not the person involved with the military. This could open up three possible states or courts that could potentially have the jurisdiction to hear the divorce case.

It is often convenient for the military personnel and their family to file in the state that they are deployed, even if this is a long way from home. Others prefer to file in their home state, even if they are stationed halfway around the world.

In short, military families have options as to what jurisdiction has legal authority to hear the request for dissolution of marriage. Every state has different laws governing divorce, since it is a state-governed issue. Depending on a divorcing couple’s specific needs, it may be more beneficial for the couple to file in Massachusetts instead of another state. This could be determined by looking at state statutes that govern divorce, marital property or even child custody.

Source:, “Military Divorce,” accessed on May 23, 2016