When you or your spouse join the military, the whole family joins, and that can have a huge long-term impact on your family life. If a military marriage works, it works well. If it does not work, then things can get complicated quickly.
Where to Start
Your first and best instinct is likely to be to contact your local legal assistance office. Although that office cannot represent you in court, the staff there can give you advice on how to proceed. They can also help you to get in contact with local counsel who will be able to represent you. By the way, if your spouse is also military, be sure to make this clear to the legal assistance staff since you could have a possible conflict issue.
Your Special Rights as a Service Member
As a member of the armed forces, or as the spouse of one, you have certain protections in a military divorce that may not apply in a civilian situation. Among these protections are:
Service members Civil Relief Act (SCRA)
Legal Services Locator
Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act
Each of these provides a different type of assistance, and each is worth looking at when you are contemplating a military divorce.
The SCRA protects the legal rights of active duty service personnel. Among other things, this means that if you get served with divorce papers while on active duty, the time available to you to respond may be extended if your duty impacts your ability to respond. Further, you are even protected from certain judgments being entered against you because you failed to appear.
Legal Services Locator
A military legal assistance attorney can help you understand the implications of your military divorce but cannot represent you or your spouse. They can, however, refer you to local nongovernmental civilian lawyers who can handle your case. The Legal Services Locator can help you find the nearest military legal assistance attorney.
Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act (USFSPA)
The USFSPA is intended to protect certain rights held by the former spouses of service members. So, if you are the non-military spouse in a military divorce, you should become aware of these rights. Under the USFSPA, you may receive medical, commissary, exchange, and theatre privileges if you meet the 20/20/20 rule, which requires that at the time of the divorce:
The couple had been married for at least 20 years
Military spouse had 20 years’ service in
Non-military spouse was married to the military spouse during at least 20 years of the member’s service
You should be aware, however, that the USFSPA does not automatically entitle a former spouse to a portion of the former spouse’s retirement pay. That is determined by court order in the divorce proceeding.
Where Can You Get Divorced?
In a military divorce, the spouses may be in different states or in even in different countries if one is serving overseas. Since divorce law is always local, it is vitally important that you consult with legal counsel to make sure that (1) you can file for divorce and that (2) the divorce you obtain will be recognized in the United States.
Call Us Today to Speak with a Killeen Divorce Lawyer
Located in Killeen, Texas, Brett Pritchard has extensive experience working with divorce law as it relates to military personnel. Mr. Pritchard can help with knowing when and how to file as well as how to protect your rights when you file or are filed against. Call us today at 254-501-4040 or contact us online to schedule a free case evaluation.