How is Texas Divorce Different for Service Members in the Military?
Military divorces — divorces where one or both of the spouses are active duty military personnel, in the National Guard, or reservists — often require additional steps and procedures to finalize as compared to civilian divorces. Most states, including Texas, have laws and procedures that only pertain to military divorces. There are also federal laws that govern the steps necessary to finalize a military divorce in Texas. This is why it’s important for service members and their spouses to consult with Texas military divorce lawyers to ensure their divorce proceedings are conducted according to all of the requirements found in both state and federal law.
Protection from Military Divorce in Texas
Federal laws exist to protect active duty military members from being divorced by their spouses without knowing an action has been filed in federal court. Under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), and in the discretion of the local court, a military divorce in Texas may be postponed while the service member is on active duty and for an additional 60 days afterward. Active duty service members may waive these protections if they wish to continue with the divorce proceedings as soon as they are filed.
Serving an Active Duty Military Spouse
In order for a Texas court to hear the divorce proceedings involving an active duty military spouse, the active duty member must be served in person with divorce papers. It is also possible for the spouses of military members to file a waiver affidavit not to be served in person, but this is only possible when the divorce is uncontested.
Residency and Filing Requirements
The grounds for filing for a military divorce in Texas are the same as those for civilians. Divorces are usually filed where a couple lives, but this is not always possible for military couples on active duty. Active members of the military may be deployed at any time, and that can cause problems when planning a military divorce. Some couples may not have lived in a state long enough to establish residence. Texas military divorce lawyers can help individuals determine whether or not they meet the residency requirements for obtaining a divorce in Texas. If a divorcing couple meets the residency requirements for a state other than Texas, military divorce lawyers may advise their client to file for divorce in the other state.
In order to proceed with a military divorce in Texas, either the active duty member or their spouse must have been a resident of Texas for at least six months and a resident of their county for three or more months. The active duty service member must be stationed in Texas for these residency requirements to apply. If the active duty service member is deployed or stationed in a different state, then the process may require filing in a different state.
The rules regarding the division of property and marital assets in military divorces in Texas are the same as those for civilian marriages, but there are federal laws governing the division of military retirement benefits. Division and disbursement of military retirement assets are determined in accordance with the guidelines set by the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act (USFSPA). In order for a dependent spouse to receive any disbursement from retirement benefits, the couple must have been married for at least ten years while the military member was on active duty. Federal law grants direct partial payments of military retirement to spouses married to a soldier for at least ten years, but military divorce in Texas requires the division of any future military retirement benefits that accrued during the marriage regardless of its length.
Divorcing couples must include a section in the divorce decree that spells out provisions for the Survivor Benefit Plan premiums, if any, as well as the length of the marriage, the time on active duty service and the computed amount of the retirement payments the spouse will receive if any. Health care benefits will also continue for the minor children and, if the marriage lasted for 20 years, the spouse as well, so the soldier will be required to obtain military identification cards for his dependents as needed. Because of these unique circumstances, it is important to consult with a Texas military divorce lawyer who understands the specific requirements for finalizing a military divorce in Texas.
Custody, Child Support, and Spousal Support
The normal Texas child support guidelines, worksheets, and schedules are used to determine the amount of child support to be paid in a military divorce in Texas. Although support orders in Texas are decided according to the normal guidelines for support determination, the support may not exceed 60 percent of the pay and allowances of the active duty member.
Parents who are divorcing in Texas must agree on a written parenting plan or allow a judge to enter an order regarding conservatorship and possession, the terms used for custody and visitation. Military couples must consider what will happen if the active duty member is deployed or sent to another location. For example, in military divorces in Texas, a deployed service member may ask the court to allow extra visitation after they return. Therefore, the parties might agree to include an automatic provision to that effect in their parenting plan. They might also agree to let the child’s grandparents visit with the child while the service member is away.
Starting The Process
With the assistance of a Texas military divorce lawyer, actions filed in Texas are generally the same as most other divorces, with the exception of some specific requirements for the action to proceed within the state. Active duty military members should always work with an experienced law firm that is familiar with military divorces in Texas. It is important during a military divorce to know the best way to handle concerns such as jurisdiction, child custody, and division of property as it applies to a military member to let divorcing couples reach the most favorable resolution for their individual situation.
The board-certified attorneys at Ramos Law Group can help. Contact us to start the process of achieving the best possible result for your case.