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Special Issues Involved in Military Divorces

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In family law parlance, a “military divorce” is a marital dissolution in which at least one of the parties involved is active military, or part of the National Guard, or part of the military reserves. Military divorces are basically a separate type of dissolution because these divorces have their own requirements and considerations. If you or your spouse are military personnel, and you’re planning (or desiring) a divorce, you should be aware of these requirements and considerations.

The Right to Postpone While on Active Duty

One of the key things to know about military divorces is that the divorce proceedings may be postponed while someone is on active duty. This is true even when the petitioner files the initial documentation correctly. If a spouse is away on active duty, and the petitioner initiates a divorce, proceedings may be postponed as long as both the respondent spouse (on active duty) and local court agree to do so. Furthermore, the court may also delay the proceedings for 60 days after the service member returns. Active duty personnel may elect to waive this right if they wish to speed the divorce process along without any postponements.

Service Requirements for Active Duty Personnel

There are other provisions which apply to active duty personnel. Many spouses assume that the normal service or notice requirements don’t apply when someone is away on active duty. This assumption is not correct. In order to move forward with a divorce proceeding against an active military service member, that service member must be properly served with the divorce paperwork. If the divorce is uncontested, then this requirement may be waived, however.

Residency Requirements / Filing Requirements

Military personnel are subject to the same residency and filing requirements which apply to non-military civilians. In order to proceed with a divorce in Texas, one of the spouses must establish residency in Texas for at least 6 months prior to the petition; furthermore, one of the spouses must also establish residency within the local county for a minimum of 3 months. Importantly, the military spouse must be stationed in the State of Texas; if the military spouse is officially stationed in another state, then the divorce process should be initiated outside of Texas.

Property Division & Child Custody Issues

The rules regarding property division for military divorces are largely the same, although there are a few unique considerations. For instance, there are particular rules governing the division of military retirement accounts, both at the federal level and the state level in Texas. State law in Texas provides that military retirement benefits may be divided equitably regardless of the length of the marriage; federal law, by contrast, requires that the marriage last a minimum of 10 years before retirement benefits become eligible for division.

The child custody and visitation processes are also impacted by a spouse's status as active military. Most of the basic guidelines and rules remain the same, but there are special rules pertaining to child support and custody determinations. For instance, child support may not exceed 60 percent of an active duty member's pay. Custody and visitation determinations need to take into account a military spouse's schedule; this can be done by providing additional visitation when a military spouse returns from active duty, for example.

Contact The Ramage Law Firm for More Information

If you’d like to learn more, contact The Ramage Law Group today by calling 972-562-9890.

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