What Court Can Hear a Service Member’s Child Custody Dispute?

Members of the armed service get divorced just like civilians. But many unique legal issues arise in military divorces. Service members are rarely stationed in their hometowns. At the same time, they don’t become permanent residents of their base. Many are also on the move, perhaps being transferred around the country. You might find yourself temporarily in South Carolina when you decide to finally cut the cord and file for divorce.

South Carolina law, however, places limits on the disputes a court in our state can hear. This limitation is called “jurisdiction.” A South Carolina court needs jurisdiction over the dispute, otherwise it can’t grant a divorce or establish child custody. Our state’s courts need jurisdiction over both civilians and members of the military.

The Peck Law Firm can help anyone seeking a military divorce. We will analyze the relevant laws and use them to your advantage. Contact us today to speak with our Charleston military divorce attorney.

South Carolina Jurisdiction for Divorce & Child Custody

Generally, jurisdiction is based on residency. A court can hear a legal dispute of those people residing in the state. But that’s precisely what’s at issue in military divorces. Where does the service member reside? Can either the service member or spouse use a South Carolina court to get divorced?

Here are the residency requirements for divorce:

  • If your spouse is stationed outside of South Carolina, then you must have resided in the Palmetto State for at least a year before you file.
  • If you are both South Carolina residents, then you must have resided here for 90 days before filing.
  • If you can’t meet these residency requirements, you might have to wait to get divorced. Or you might need to go to a different state and file, if possible.

When it comes to child custody, however, different rules apply for jurisdiction. Here, the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) is the relevant law. Under the UCCJEA, a family court has jurisdiction to make an initial child custody determination if a child has lived in South Carolina at least six months before you file. And if the child is under six months of age, a court could still have jurisdiction in certain cases.

It’s possible, then, for a South Carolina court to have jurisdiction over child custody and support but not the divorce itself. That’s where things can get tricky. If you want to start a divorce, you can try to get your out-of-state spouse to consent to jurisdiction. If you are trying to fight off a divorce, then you might have options as well.

Get the Answers You Need

Jurisdictional requirements with military divorces are very complex. We recommend immediately reaching out to an attorney to review where to file. Although federal law provides protections to service members, they cannot prevent a divorce or child custody fight indefinitely.

To learn more, contact The Peck Law Firm today to schedule a consultation. We can analyze where to file your divorce and/or child custody petition.

Recommendations For Additional Reading

5 Things to Know About Military Divorces
How are Military Retirement Benefits Divided in a Charleston Divorce?
Child Custody Factors in a Military Divorce