The process of ending a marriage relationship involves a lot of emotional trauma and financial burden. Military and civilian are the two ways of seeking a relief from the marriage in the US. Military divorce in Texas does not differ much in its process, barring a few exceptions in the issues of division of pensions, residency requirements, legal protections for the armed force members and emergency court orders pertaining to child support. This term is not legal and is only used to differentiate itself from the civilian type.
This is a type of marriage break-up, where one of the spouses is on ‘active duty, reserve or guard, or a retired officer’.
Military Divorce – Statistics
The overall annual rate of divorce in Texas is 4.1 per 1000 people, one of the highest in the United States. It has been witnessed that in certain states, broken marriages are on the rise. There are around 2 millions of armed personnel spreading across the state. The overall rate of broken marriages among armed force members has risen from 2.6 percent in 2001 to 3.7 percent in 2011.
Laws for Armed Forces Marriage Split
The rules and standards for a military termination of marriage are governed by the specific state and federal laws as follows:
- Service Members Civil Relief Act
An armed personnel has legal protection from the proceedings of marriage dissociation, while on active duty to allow them to “devote their entire energy to the defense needs of the nation”. Under the Service Member Civil Relief Act (formerly called Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act), a court may delay the case proceeding for the time, while a member of the armed force is on active duty and continues that delay for as much as sixty days following the end of his or her active duty.
- Petition Filing and Residence Criteria
- The petition is filed in the district court of the county where either party lives.
- Texas residents serving in the armed forces and stationed outside the U.S. may still be considered to be a resident. The personnel who have not been previous residents of that state, but have been stationed at one or more military installations for at least the past six months and at a armed force installation for the prior 90 days, are considered to be residents of the state and residents of that county for the purposes of filing for parting ways.
- Grounds for Filing a Divorce
Texas laws for an army man’s marriage partition is no different from the civilian one. In no-fault cases, the petitioner has to mention the grounds for parting ways due to which the marriage has become insupportable. On the other hand, the grounds for fault cases may be cruelty, adultery, and separation for more than 3 years amongst other reasons.
- Adultery in Military
Under UCMJ (Uniform Code of Military Justice), adultery is not mentioned as an offense. It is prosecuted under the General Articles i.e. Article 134. It is difficult to prosecute an adultery case, as it is difficult to prove such wrongdoings of an individual. There are certain elements of proof that are considered by the military are as follows:
- Accused individual wrongfully had sexual intercourse with other person
- When the accused individual or the other person were married to some other individual at the time of wrongful physical relation
- The behavior of the accused individual was of the nature that it would bring discredit to the military
You may find it surprising that even a single person can be blamed charges of adultery, if their act causes discredit to the military.
- Jurisdictional Rights
The active duty spouse must be served with the petition for ending a relationship for valid jurisdiction over the member of the army. In an uncontested case, the active duty spouse may not have to be served as long as he or she signs and files a waiver affidavit acknowledging the action of drifting apart. The active duty member can refuse to accept the service and in such a case, the filing party may request the court to serve the member. The court may or may not agree to serve the papers and so the spouse may be forced to wait until the active member of the army returns to start the process.
- Dividing the Property
Division of marital property or assets is based on the normal property division laws. The Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act (USFSPA) governs how to calculate and divide the retirement benefits upon divorce. The USFSPA is the governing body that authorizes a direct payment of a portion of army retirees’ pay to the former spouse. The federal laws will not divide and distribute any of the members of the armed force, retirement to the spouse unless they have been married 10 years or longer while the member has been active duty.
- Former Spouse
Under the USFSPA, a former armed force personnel spouse is eligible for medical, commissary and exchange privileges if:
- The marriage lasted for minimum 20 years.
- The member has served a minimum of 20 years of service creditable for retired pay.
- There were at least 20 overlap of the marriage and military service members.
However, in case of remarriage, eligibility for the benefits will be terminated. The benefits are revived if subsequent marriage ends.
- Child Support and Spousal Support
It is the duty of the army members to support their children’s and their spouse’s needs. In Texas, both child support and spousal support/alimony awards may not exceed 60% of a government official’s pay and allowances. The normal child support guidelines and schedules are used to determine the proper amount of child support to be paid.
Military divorce in Texas is no different from the civilian type apart from having few specific laws for armed force personnel and their spouses. Also, there are no specific forms for civil service division, apart from a few additional forms (the proper affidavits, application for identity cards, the certificate of retirement from service) according to federal and state laws. Service members and their spouses should be aware of these laws. It is always advisable to hire an experienced lawyer to complete the process in view of the rights and interests of both the spouses.