All people are equal before the law. However, a good attorney makes a significant difference.

Navigating Military Divorce in Texas: Key Considerations for Service Members and Their Spouses

Divorce is a challenging experience, and when one or both spouses are in the military, the complexities increase significantly.

Military divorces in Texas involve unique legal considerations that differ from civilian divorces.

At Sralla Family Law PLLC, we understand the unique concerns for military members and their spouses facing divorce. We represent clients stationed nearby at Camp Bullis, Fort Sam Houston, Lackland Air Force Base, Randolph Air Force Base, as well as other military bases in Texas.

Residency Requirements

One of the primary concerns in military divorce is meeting residency requirements. Under the Texas Family Code, either spouse must have lived in Texas for the preceding six months and in the county where the divorce is filed for the previous 90 days.

For active service members stationed outside Texas but considering it their home, or for their spouses living outside the state, Texas law allows them to meet residency requirements as long as they maintain Texas as their domicile. This flexibility helps ensure that service members and their families can file for divorce without the added stress of relocating.

Serving Divorce Papers

Serving divorce papers to a deployed service member presents another layer of complexity. Typically, in Texas, the person who is served divorce papers must answer within 20 days of service.

However, under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), active military members can request a stay of proceedings for up to 90 days post-deployment.

Additionally, courts are prohibited from entering default judgments against active duty service members. This provision ensures that service members have adequate time to respond to divorce proceedings without being disadvantaged by their service commitments.

Property Division

Military couples should be aware that any property acquired during the marriage, unless identified as separate property, is subject to division. Special considerations include military pensions and benefits.

Under the Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act (USFSPA), if a couple was married for 20 years, with 20 years of military service overlapping the marriage, the non-military spouse is entitled to military health insurance and other benefits post-divorce.

Child Custody in Military Divorce: Unique Challenges and Considerations

Child custody is often the most emotionally charged and complex aspect of any divorce, and this complexity is magnified in military divorces.

Child custody arrangements in military divorces must account for the unique challenges of military life, such as deployments and relocations. Courts prioritize the best interests of the child in every child custody case. Factors considered include:

  • The child’s emotional and physical needs
  • The stability of each parent’s home environment
  • The ability of each parent to provide for the child’s welfare

However, military-specific factors such as deployment schedules and potential relocations add complexity.

Deployment and Custody Arrangements

Courts recognize that active-duty service members may be required to leave for extended periods, which can disrupt traditional custody arrangements. In these cases, it is essential to establish a parenting plan that accounts for these disruptions. Some possible solutions include:

  • Temporary Custody Modifications: During deployment, temporary custody may be awarded to the non-military parent to ensure stability for the child. Upon the service member’s return, the original custody arrangement can be reinstated.
  • Virtual Visitation: Technology such as video calls can be utilized to maintain the relationship between the deployed parent and the child. Courts may order regular virtual visitation sessions to ensure ongoing contact.
  • Delegation of Visitation Rights: Service members can delegate their visitation rights to another family member, such as a grandparent, during their deployment. This arrangement helps maintain the child’s connection to the military parent’s family.

Relocation and Custody

Military families often face frequent relocations due to reassignment orders. When one parent receives a Permanent Change of Station (PCS) order, it can significantly impact custody arrangements.

Courts must balance the need for the child’s stability with the service member’s duty requirements:

  • Impact on the Child’s Stability: Courts will assess how the move will affect the child’s education, social connections, and overall well-being. If the relocation is deemed to disrupt the child’s stability significantly, the court may modify the custody arrangement to minimize the impact.
  • Feasibility of Visitation: The court will consider how feasible it is for the non-relocating parent to maintain regular visitation. This may involve creating a detailed visitation schedule that accommodates long-distance travel.
  • Best Interests of the Child: Ultimately, the court’s primary concern is the best interests of the child. This may involve weighing the benefits of the relocation, such as improved living conditions or educational opportunities, against the potential drawbacks.

Custody and Support Orders

Military parents must comply with custody and support orders, just like civilian parents. However, the military has specific protocols to ensure compliance.

The Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) can facilitate the garnishment of wages for child support and alimony payments directly from the service member’s pay. This ensures that financial obligations are met consistently.

Legal Protections for Military Parents

The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) provides legal protections for military parents, ensuring that their service commitments do not unfairly disadvantage them in custody disputes.

The SCRA allows for the postponement of court proceedings if a service member’s duties prevent them from appearing in court. Additionally, the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act (USFSPA) provides guidelines for the division of military pensions and benefits, which can impact financial support arrangements in custody cases.

Contact A San Antonio Military Divorce Attorney

In a military divorce case, it is important to work with attorneys who understand military-specific issues such as deployment impacts, military pension division, and the nuances of military benefits.

Contact our law office in San Antonio to schedule a free 20-minute consultation where we can explain how we can help you as a military member or military spouse facing divorce.

For more information, please call 210-600-9565 or text 210-212-5656.