If you are in the military or are a spouse of an active duty servicemember you don’t need me to tell you that your life is different than most of your neighbors. The demands on your time, the expectations placed on you and your family in your career and your future plans are likely to be very different than most people’s. That’s ok, of course. It is the life that you and/or your spouse signed up for and you are proud to defend and protect our country. We, too, are grateful to you and your family for the sacrifice that you are making.
However, in the event that you are considering a divorce from your spouse you likely have questions that may be different than most people regarding military-specific issues. With Texas being home to more veterans and active duty servicemembers than any other state, the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC has been fortunate enough to represent many people just like you going through similar situations. In today’s blog post I would like to share with you some of my impressions on how a military divorce differs from a run-of-the-mill civilian divorce.
Initial thoughts on military divorces in Texas
The simple fact is that military divorce typically will require additional steps that are not a part of a civilian divorce. To initiate and complete a divorce in Texas takes at least sixty days from the date that the divorce is filed and it is typical for most divorces to last longer than this. Uncontested divorces, ones where you and your spouse agree on every issue related to your case, are relatively few and far between.
The Servicemember’s Civil Relief Act (SCRA) holds that if you are an active duty member of the military that your divorce can be held up and postponed while you are serving and then an additional sixty day hold can be placed on your case after you are no longer on active duty. If you are able to proceed without hindrance during your duty you can waive these protections, however.
How do you serve your spouse who is an active duty servicemember?
The first step in beginning a divorce in Texas is filing an Original Petition for Divorce in the county where you or your spouse are able to claim residency. Once you are able to do so the next step is to provide notice of the divorce having been filed to your spouse. For most people this is not a big deal. You know where your spouse lives and/or where he/she works. Serving your spouse is no more difficult than sending a process server or constable to one of these locations.
The difficult comes in for military families when your spouse is either across the country from where you are or in a location where you are not familiar. You can meet with an experienced family law attorney to learn how to waste as little time as possible in serving your active duty spouse. If you know where he or she is living and the likelihood that he or she will be stateside when you send someone out to serve him or her this is a good start.
If you and your spouse are able to discuss your divorce ahead of time and agree to the terms of your divorce before it is filed then you can consider having a waiver of service provided to your spouse along with your Original Petition for divorce. The waiver of service does just that- it waives your spouse’s right to be personally served with the petition for divorce. The waiver does not waive their right to be provided with notice of any hearings set in your divorce but it does waive the need to go through with personal service.
Where are you a resident if you are in the military?
It doesn’t matter if you are in the military or a civilian, to file for a divorce in Texas you or your spouse must be a resident of the state for at least six months prior to the date the divorce is filed and must also have been a resident of the county that you have filed in for at least three months prior to the filing date. Civilians will typically file for divorce in the county where they both reside, unsurprisingly.
What about for you and your family? Where is it appropriate to file if you have not lived in the United States for a long period of time or have moved around a great deal during your years in the military? To make a determination on whether or not you have resided in Texas long enough, or have the ability to assert Texas residency, it is a good idea to check with a licensed family law attorney in Texas.
Dividing up property in a Texas divorce
When it comes to military divorce, dividing up personal property and real estate is the same as for civilians. The difference between families like yours and civilian families is that in your situation retirement benefits are handled differently. If your spouse is in the military and you are a “dependent spouse” you must have been married for at least 10 years during the time that your spouse was an active duty member of the military in order for you to receive a portion of their military retirement benefits.
Issues related to children for a military family
Child support is typically agreed upon prior to a trial for most Texas families. A percentage of your take-home pay (net income) is provided to the primary conservator of your children as child support. This is the same in situations involving military and civilian families.
As far as rights, duties and possession of your child are concerned you and your spouse must also set forth an agreed to parenting plan for your child or else your case will proceed to a trial for a judge to render decisions on this subject. The trickiest part of this discussion, often times, is that you and your spouse must make plans for and accommodate your schedule that does not lend itself for easy planning. If you plan on being far from home for an extended period of time or believe that your schedule cannot accommodate time with your children you must do to so.
For instance, if you know that you will be gone for the next two years on a deployment, you may ask for extra (makeup) time to be applied to your case after you return to the United States. Also- what about visitation time for your parents and relatives while you are away. Do not assume that your spouse will be willing to work things out with you on the fly. Get agreements on this subject before signing on the dotted line of your final decree of divorce.
Experience matters if you are in the military and are filing for divorce
There is no better time than the present to begin to learn about filing for divorce as a member of the military. Since you or your spouse have special requirements to go through in order to get your divorce done and over with it is crucial that you take time to find out more information about this important subject.
Attorneys with experience handling not only family law cases, but military divorces is essential in this regard. You wouldn’t work on your own teeth and you wouldn’t send your Chevy vehicle to the nearby Toyota Dealership for performing a job. Family law attorneys are here to help you answer questions and address issues.
Questions on military divorces? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC
In order to achieve the results that you and your family deserve in your divorce you need a tenacious, diligent and honest attorney to represent you. Those lawyers with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC take a great deal of pride representing the people in our community and folks just like you. Contact us today in order to set up a free of charge consultation where we can directly address your concerns and questions.