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What Are the Unique Challenges of a Military Divorce?

A civilian court handles both military and civilian divorces and must adhere to the law of the state you are filing in. Similarities include residency requirements and acceptable grounds for the dissolution of marriage. However, a military divorce presents unique challenges. A military divorce means that at least one party is an active-duty service member, in the National Guard, or a reservist.

If you are pursuing a military divorce in Texas, you should consider working with a reputable divorce attorney who has experience representing military personnel. This can help protect your rights as an individual and as a parent and ensure fair divorce proceedings.

How to Serve Divorce Papers to a Military Member in Texas

Texas requires that an individual serves divorce papers to their active-duty military spouse in person. The service member may submit an affidavit to waive the need for their spouse to do so, but this is only possible if you opt for an uncontested divorce where you agree on all matters. This is one of the reasons why consulting with a lawyer is important, even if you do not expect any complications in your divorce.

Exemption from Default Judgment for Active-Duty Military Personnel

The Servicemember’s Civil Relief Act, also known as SCRA, provides legal protection for currently deployed military personnel. It allows 90 additional days to respond to your spouse’s divorce papers. You may also request that a judge delay the hearing until after your return from deployment. This is especially important in the case of a contested divorce as it prevents your spouse from asking for a divorce judgment due to your inability to appear before the court within the normal Texas time frame.

Property and Benefits Division

Texas is a community property state. The law thus considers that all property that you and your spouse own at the time you file for divorce is marital or joint, including certain military benefits like retirement. Military spouses can generally receive half of the military officer’s disposable retired pay if the marriage has lasted at least 10 years while your military spouse was on active duty.

However, the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act or USFSPA includes some provisions to protect the service member’s financial assets.

The USFSPA does not allow former military spouses to receive any portion of the service member’s:

  • Military Disability Retired Pay
  • VA Disability Compensation
  • Special Combat-Related Compensation
  • Concurrent Retirement and Disability Pay

The military spouse maintains their health benefits after the divorce while their former spouse often loses eligibility. A former military spouse may retain health benefits if the marriage lasted at least 20 years while the service member was on active duty.

Child Custody and Support

Texas judges focus on a child’s best interests when issuing a ruling on child support and child custody. The state refers to custody and visitation as conservatorship and possession. Parents can agree on custody plans in written form and submit them to the judge to review. If the judge considers that it is not sufficient to meet the child’s needs, they can modify the proposition, and if parents cannot find an agreement on conservatorship and possession, the judge determines what plan meets the child’s best interests.

A military divorce follows the same Texas guidelines to calculate child support payments. Child support must not exceed 60 percent of the non-custodial parent’s pay, including a service member’s allowance.

Regarding parenting time, a parenting plan should account for a service member’s deployment and make up for lost time with children due to active duty.

A military parenting plan can include provisions such as:

  • Arranging communication time between the military parent and the child
  • Allowing the military parent additional time with the child when they are home between deployments
  • Giving specific custodial rights to the service member’s parents (the child’s grandparents) while the military parent is on active duty and/or arranging visitation time with the grandparents during deployments
  • Accounting for travel time for child visitation if the military parent moves to another state or country

Work with an Experienced Military Divorce Attorney

Given the complexity of a military divorce, hiring a family law attorney who has experience in this type of divorce can make a significant difference in protecting your assets and your parental rights. At Contact Cynthia Tracy, Attorney at Law, P.C., we can guide you through the process and answer any questions you have. Military divorces involve both Texas and federal laws, and our detailed understanding of both allows us to better serve our clients in a time and cost-effective procedure.

We are dedicated to carefully evaluating your situation and recommending strategies that meet your specific needs to secure a positive future for you and your family. Working with a qualified attorney can alleviate some of the stress you are experiencing, and our lawyers can help you and your spouse communicate more effectively to find a resolution outside of the courtroom. In the event your divorce goes to trial, we can represent you before the court.

Are you looking for a reputable military divorce lawyer in Houston or its surrounding areas? Contact Cynthia Tracy, Attorney at Law, P.C., today at (281) 612-5443 to schedule a consultation!