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Before initiating a family law case, the state must have subject-matter jurisdiction over the case. For divorce, legal separation or annulment proceedings, this typically requires that either of the spouses be a legal resident (also known as "domicile" - the two are interchangeable in Colorado) of the state where the action is commencing.

In order for the Colorado divorce court to have subject-matter jurisdiction, C.R.S. 14-10-106(1)(A)(I) requires one of the spouses to be domiciled in Colorado for at least 90 days prior to filing for dissolution.

For civilians, legal residence is generally easy to determine - look at where the person lives. However, the same is not true for military personnel. Servicemembers PCS frequently, but their legal residence does not change by being stationed somewhere without more.

Colorado follows the following principle: The Colorado Supreme Court has ruled that a servicemember who is present in Colorado pursuant to military orders, without more, is not a legal resident. Viernes v. District Court, 509 P.2s 306 (Colo. 1973).

Subject-matter jurisdiction is NOT waivable. So if you have two spouses, both in the military, with Texas and California as their states of residence, they cannot obtain a dissolution in Colorado, even if they were married here. Instead, they either have to get divorced in one of their states of residence, or one spouse must take steps to become a Colorado resident. The single most important step is completing a DD Form 2058, State of Legal Residence Certificate, which tells DFAS what state's taxes to withhold, and then filing income taxes in Colorado. Other possible steps are registering to vote, obtaining a Colorado driver's license, bank account, etc. Then, wait the requisite time frame (e.g. 90 days for a divorce) before filing.


Servicemembers Civil Relief Act

The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act states that a servicemember who relocates solely in compliance with military orders does not lose his/her original domicile for purposes of:

Note that the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act does not explicitly address residence or domicile for purposes of court actions, however, it is likely persuasive on the issue of domicile, particularly in Colorado given the body of case law holding that military personnel need more than physical presence due to military orders to satisfy the residency requirements.


Military Spouses Residence Relief Act

In 2009, Congress enacted P.L. 111-97, the Military Spouses Residency Relief Act, which provides military spouses essentially identical rights as servicemembers on the issue of domicile.  So for purposes of taxation and voting, 10 U.S. Code §§571 and 595 have been modified so that a military spouse moving with a servicemember pursuant to military orders does not lose his/her original state of residence, providing that the spouse and servicemember have the same state of legal residence.

What this means is more complications for military divorces, as one cannot necessarily count on a civilian spouse living in Colorado as being a domicile of Colorado. Instead, it may take more to establish residence, as it does for a servicemember.