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Military divorce in Texas: Commonly asked questions

Though much of the military divorce process in Texas is similar to the civilian divorce process, there are a few key points people should know.

There are certain aspects of a military divorce that are similar to the end of a marriage between two civilians. In Texas, a state court presides over the process in both cases. However, there are some federal laws that apply to military divorces of which both members and their spouses should be aware.

How do I file for divorce in Texas?

Just as with civilians, military members or their spouses who wish to file for divorce must have lived in Texas for at least six months. Additionally, they must have lived in the county where the divorce will be filed for at least 90 days.

This, of course, may be difficult for some military families who move often. Therefore, if either spouse meets these requirements, the petition may proceed. Also, military personnel who are not residents of Texas but who have been stationed at a facility in the state for six months will be considered residents for the purpose of filing the divorce.

What if I am on active duty when the divorce is initiated?

As anyone in the military knows, communication is not always easy or frequent. Active duty military members may be deployed in places without Internet or phone service, for example.

The Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act specifically states that if active duty personnel fail to respond to a divorce action, they will not necessarily be held in default. Instead, the divorce proceeding may be put on hold for the entire time the military member is active, with up to an additional 60 days afterward. However, the military member may be able to waive the postponement.

How is property divided, specifically military retirement and benefits?

Texas is a community property state, which means that the courts assess all jointly owned or acquired property and divide it based on what is "just and right." In other words, property may not be split equally unless the courts deem it appropriate.

When it comes to military benefits, the Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act makes pension eligible for division, even if the military member has not yet received any pay. Child support and alimony may come out of this fund as well. It should be noted, however, that the act states only if the couple has been married for at least 20 years, and the spouse served at least 20 years, will the other spouse receive health insurance and certain other benefits following the divorce.

Every family law situation is unique. Military members and their spouses should be aware of what the state and federal laws are regarding their divorce or any other legal issue they may encounter. People who have concerns about this topic should speak with a family law attorney in Texas.

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