The rigors of military life are well known. Enlisting in the armed services on behalf of your country is one of the most selfless and courageous decisions a person can make. Deciding to put the lives of your fellow citizens before your own to step into a situation where your well being is in question shows bravery and a sense of civic duty that we as civilians admire a great deal- and rightfully so. Being subjected to frequent movement across the country and even across the world can put a strain on your relationships- most notably the relationship between you and your spouse.
It is no wonder then that military families suffer from divorce with some regularity then. The ever-changing nature of the lives of married servicemen and women can lead to a marriage relationship that isn’t always on the most solid of ground. Deploying into a warzone across the world or simply being moved from place to place with little notice can be quite stressful to even a healthy marriage.
Military divorces have unique elements and characteristics that civilian divorces do not, however. Hiring a one size fits all attorney to handle your military divorce is not a good idea. The difficult issues coupled with the emotions and stresses involved in the process require some advanced planning and care.
The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC are proud supporters of our nation’s military men and women and are likewise just as proud to represent members of the armed services as clients of ours. The purpose of today’s blog post is to discuss some essential tidbits of knowledge that are specific to military divorces.
Federal law and State law are both relevant in military divorces
For the most part, divorces for residents of Texas are governed by the laws associated with divorce in Texas. That should come as no surprise. There are federal laws that are relevant to retirement division in divorce and things of that nature, but for the most part, we look to the Texas Family Code for guidance in divorcing persons in Texas.
Military divorces do not work the same way, however. Military pensions are perhaps the most debated upon the issue in divorces that our office handles for both active duty members of the military as well as veterans. These benefits are ones that you worked hard for and have sacrificed a great deal to achieve. Now that it is time for a divorce to occur, both sides- whether it is your pension plan that is now subject to division or if you are the spouse who is attempting to divide your spouse’s plan- want the as straightforward and sensible result as is possible.
Eligibility to access a military member’s pension depends in large part on the length of the marriage so consulting with an attorney who handles military divorces is essential to ensure you are being properly advised on this subject in particular.
Additionally, the Service Members Civil Relief Act protects members of our armed services. This federal law prohibits spouses of active duty military members from initiating divorce proceedings. The idea is that while you are protecting the country from harm abroad, your spouse should not be able to start a divorce when you are not in a position to defend your rights.
Where you can get divorced is an important consideration when a member of the military
Military families are some of the most mobile and transient of people by necessity. It’s often not a question of if you will move, but when and how often those moves occur. For the most part, if you are a resident of Texas (and have been for six months) and reside in a county for at least ninety days you may file for divorce in that Texas county. Not a big deal.
However, if you are a member of the military then this issue becomes a tad more complicated since it may not be clear where exactly you are a resident. In Texas, you as a military member can still file for divorce even if you are living elsewhere due to your work obligations. The same residency requirements that we outlined above are relevant, however, if you want to qualify as a resident of Texas for divorce purposes.
Dividing up your community estate
Texas is a community property state meaning that your debts, assets, and other property acquired during your marriage are subject to division if a divorce occurs. Here is where we see state and federal law comingle for military members and their spouses. Federal law requires that you and your spouse have been married for at least ten years to receive direct payments from your military pension.
Those ten years of marriage must be concurrent with ten years of military service as well. However, State law in Texas allows for the division of a military pension even if you and your spouse have not been married for ten years. Health insurance considerations, as well as other benefits provided to military spouses, are also subject to federal laws associated with military members, the spouses, and divorce.
The community property laws of Texas would apply to your divorce in areas such as the division of debts and assets as well as determining what (if any) of your and your spouse’s property belongs in either of your separate estates. That property would not be subject to division upon divorce.
Questions about your military divorce? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC
If you are interested in learning more about your rights as a member of the military or are the spouse of a military member interested in doing so please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC. A free-of-charge consultation is only a phone call away and can help assist you in charting a plan for accomplishing whatever goals you have in mind for yourself. We represent clients across southeast Texas and would be honored to do the same for you.
Questions about the material contained in today’s blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
If you have any questions about the material contained in today’s blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed estate planning and probate attorneys offer free of charge consultation six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are a great way to learn about the world of probate law and how the filing of a probate case may impact your family circumstances.
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