Unique Features of Military Family Law

  1. Residency: At the time a person files for divorce he or she must have been residing 90 days in the county where he or she wants to file and be considered a domiciliary of Texas for at least six month. If the petitioner for divorce is in the military (or a military dependent) and leaves the county on active duty that residency and domicile eligibility is not automatically lost.  There are several service members or their spouses who file after they are gone from El Paso, since they get to keep their residency domicile even after they leave the state.   See a lawyer familiar with military family law for advice on this point.
  2. Family Support: Military regulations impose a family support obligation on a service member.  A service member receives  Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) either without dependent or with dependents. The BAH with dependents is higher since the added benefit is to be used to support the family.  A service member’s chain of command will oftentimes need to enforce these obligations that a service member is not honoring.  Court-ordered support trumps the regulatory obligation.   See a family lawyer familiar with military family law in order to better understand the military and civilian rules governing family support.
  3. Child Support: The family courts in El Paso County, Texas routinely include non-taxable benefits that a service member receives when calculating child support. This could involve including BAH, Basic Allowance for Subsistence (BAS) along with the service member’s net taxable income in setting child support.
  4. Visitation Rights: An active duty service member should seek to include in his or her final divorce decree provisions for a selected family member to be able to exercise his or her visitation rights to see a child when he or she cannot due to deployments, mobilizations or restrictive temporary duty assignments (TDY). The Texas Family Code contains specific visitation provisions for extended family members that could be included in the final decree.   See a divorce lawyer who is familiar with these provisions.
  5. VA Benefits: Oftentimes when a service member leaves active duty, he or she may receive VA benefits.  These are non-taxable benefits, are based on service connected disability and are thus not divisible with a former spouse.  However, these VA service connected disability benefits could be included in the calculation of a former service member’s child support obligation.
  6. Retirement Benefits: A service member’s retirement benefits are divisible with a former spouse.  It is a property right accorded the former spouse.  The statutes, regulations and case law all need to be studied in order for these benefits to be properly awarded.  This is where a service member, former service member or non-military spouse will definitely need the assistance of a lawyer who is familiar with military family law.
  7. Survivor Benefit Plan: A service member leaving active duty is enrolled in the Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP).  This is an annuity-type benefit that provides income to a spouse or other dependent should the former active member die while retired.  A dependent spouse facing a divorce should look closely at his or her rights to this benefits to determine whether to seek a court order awarding this benefit as part of the final decree of divorce.

 

Call us at (915) 593-6600 for assistance in these matters.  Our office has represented 1,000’s of service members, former service members, or their spouses.