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Essential Information for Military Divorces in Texas

In order to finalize a divorce in Texas, certain procedures must be followed in order for the Court to grant the divorce. Military divorces are similar in many regards to civilian divorces there are factors that need to be considered by families in which at least one spouse is an active duty member of the military.

The Houston divorce lawyers with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC would like to take this opportunity to thank our military men and women for their service to our country, and to also provide some information on this process.

Filing Requirements

To file for divorce in Texas, the general rule is that at least one party must:

  1. be a resident of the State of Texas for at least six months prior to filing for divorce and
  2. must also be a resident of the county in which they’ve filed for at least ninety days.

When a couple lives away from Texas though, this can complicate things. Active duty members of our military can be deployed away from home at a moment’s notice and there may not have been enough time to establish their residency in the State where they are currently stationed.

Texas Retains Jurisdiction of its Service Members

However, if a member of the military’s primary county of residence is in Texas and they have been deployed elsewhere, Texas still retains jurisdiction over the divorce proceedings in most situations.

The key here is where does the filing party believes their permanent home is. If they consider it to be in Texas, and have the intention to return to Texas after their deployment is completed then the filing may occur in Texas. The foregoing factors still apply as far as residency here is concerned.

Service of Divorce Papers

Service of divorce papers still needs to be in person even if the receiving party is an active duty member of the military. This is the case unless the receiving party is willing to sign a waiver of service form which basically informs the Court that they understand that they have a right to be served with the divorce paperwork personally but that they waive that right.

A person may be willing to sign such a form if they believe that they will enter into a settlement with their spouse and as a result they do not need to assert any cause of action or defenses against the divorce suit filed with their spouse.

Service Members Civil Relief Act

The Service Members Civil Relief Act also protects active duty members of our military from being held in default for failing to respond to a divorce petition. The way this works is that:

  1. divorce proceedings are basically postponed for as long as they are considered active duty members of the military and
  2. up to sixty days after that.

Dividing Property

In terms of dividing up the marital estate of the parties, the same rules that apply to civilians applies to members of the military, except for certain federal laws that apply to military retirement accounts.

A general rule of thumb is that a divorcing couple must have been married for at least ten years while the military member was on active duty in order for a dependent spouse to receive any percentage disbursement from the military retirement account.

Again, federal law has specific guidelines for the division and disbursement of the military retirement fund. An experienced attorney in handling military divorces, such as those with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, can best manage and structure this portion of a divorce to ensure that any settlement as to military retirement funds is both satisfactory to their client and to the military itself.

Child Support

Child Support is capped for members of the military at 60% of a soldier or sailor’s pay and allowances.

Where will the Children Live?

A question that often arises for either the parent with whom the children reside primarily (custodial parent) or the parent with whom the children havescheduled visitation (non-custodial parent) is what happens if they are deployed and unable to take advantage of the time awarded to them in a divorce.

If their children are not residing with them on deployment and are instead in Texas, the service member may ask that the court name a temporary custodial parent until the service member returns home.

By the same token, if the parent with visitation rights finds him or herself in a similar situation where their military commitments interfere with their visitation schedule they too can name a temporary party to use their visitation time until their time of service ends.

The court will assess the particular situation of the parties and assign temporary custodial rights accordingly. In many situations, one parent is able to stay behind in the United States while the other parent is abroad. Most courts will show preference to giving the active duty parent’s time to the other parent unless it is shown that it is not in the children’s best interests to do so.

Serving one’s country is one of the most honorable aspects to being a citizen of the United States. The sacrifices inherent in doing so are no more apparent than when a marital discord leads to the beginnings of a divorce. In order to maintain peace of mind and to give themselves the best opportunity to retain as much of their estate as possible and to maximize their time with their children, members of our armed forces need competent and effective representation.

The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC not only have a great deal of respect for members of the military but also know how their personal situations differ from those of the general public. We would encourage any military member with questions about a divorce to contact our office today for a free consultation in order to learn more about their rights.

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