HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. – For military members and their families, the question “where are you from?” can be difficult to answer, especially when the states they grew up in, where they were last stationed and where they are now, are often different.
The same question can be equally challenging when filing taxes or registering to vote.
The most common terms associated with residency are ‘home of record’ and ‘domicile.’
A member’s home of record is simply where they were living when they entered the military. It is recorded during in-processing, and used for travel entitlements when the member concludes his or her service. Home of record doesn’t typically change throughout a member’s career, and has no legal significance outside of the military.
In contrast, a service member’s domicile matters a great deal.
Domicile, or legal residence, is the place a service member considers a permanent home. This is where the member pays state income taxes, is registered to vote and accrues other state-based legal benefits. Domicile can also affect which courts administer a member’s estate, oversee a member’s divorce or adjudicate lawsuits involving the member. Though service members’ move often, their domicile does not automatically change with each permanent change of station. The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act allows members to retain legal residency in a single state regardless of where they reside on military orders.
This does not, however, mean that service members are stuck with one domicile for their entire career. Although there is no single line rule for determining one’s state of legal residence, the general rule applied is “intent to permanently reside” in a particular state. The simplest way to demonstrate this intent is through physical presence in that state. If physical presence isn’t possible, the member can offer other proof of legal residency including voter or vehicle registration, homeownership, a driver’s license, or preparation of a will from that state.
For further information on home of record or domicile, please contact the Hanscom Legal Office at 781- 225-1410.