Service of Process
Special rules govern the commencement of divorce proceedings against active service members. You should hire a law firm that is well-versed in military divorce issues so that commencement of your case is not hampered by rookie mistakes.
In both civilian and military divorces, Florida law requires the respondent to be personally served with a summons and a copy of the divorce petition in order for a Court to have jurisdiction.
After a civilian divorce case is filed, service of process is usually just a matter of handing the petition to a local process server. If the respondent does not file an answer to the divorce petition within 20 days, the petitioner can apply for a default.
In a military divorce, however, there are special military rules and federal statutes governing service of process and defaults.
In addition, although each branch of the military has policies authorizing assistance with service of process in civil matters, there are practical difficulties in serving personnel located on a military base. In some instances, especially where the divorce court is not in the same state as the base, the military may not be able to compel a service member to accept process and may not offer sufficient additional assistance to help the process server obtain access. A tenacious military divorce lawyer is needed who is familiar with the policies and regulations in each military branch.
The rules get even more complicated if the service member is deployed overseas, where federal law and international law govern service of process. In general, your lawyer must determine whether the foreign nation at issue is a signatory to the 1965 Hague Convention and then comply with the specific requirements of that treaty, which in most cases requires submission to a Central Authority that handles service under the method provided by the internal law in that country. In some countries, a certified translation of the documents being served must also be provided.
Federal law provides special protections for service members who are on active duty. For example, even after proper service of process, a party cannot obtain a default judgment against a service member without the appointment of an attorney ad litem. Most practitioners have no idea that filing a false affidavit of military service is actually a federal crime.
Once a military divorce case is initiated, the service member may be deployed to a location where he or she cannot effectively communicate with counsel. A competent military divorce attorney will know how to "stay" the case during deployment. But, it is critical to get certain documents from the service member's command before the unit deploys.
You should hire an attorney who is knowledgeable about these issues. You do not want to pay for your attorney to learn military divorce law for the first time.