Divorces in Texas can be emotionally challenging and legally complicated. A divorce where one spouse is a military member has additional complications. When you or your spouse want a divorce in the Houston area, and one of you is in the military, you should consult with a military divorce attorney in Houston to help you with the particularities involved in a military divorce.
You need an experienced Houston military divorce attorney who knows the ins and outs of military divorces. Consulting with an experienced military divorce lawyer as early as possible can help you better understand your rights during a military divorce. The attorneys at The Stout Law Firm, PLLC, have ample experience acting as divorce lawyers for military spouses and service members. We represent clients throughout the greater Houston area, including Harrison and Harris counties. Contact us for a consultation.
Military Divorce Residency Requirements
The Texas Family Code § 6.301 sets specific residency requirements all spouses must meet to be able to file for divorce in the state. Under Texas law, one or both spouses must have lived in Texas for at least six months before filing for divorce here. Plus, one or both spouses must have lived in the county they want to file in for at least 90 days. However, there are some slight differences to the general Texas residency rule for spouses in the military.
Does it matter if the servicemember spouse hasn’t physically lived in Texas for six months because they have been deployed? Not really. Texas law recognizes the complications that military service may have on residency requirements. If the military spouse has chosen Texas as their official residence, that is sufficient to satisfy Texas divorce residency requirements.
If you’re unsure whether you fit the residency requirements, contact an experienced family lawyer. The Stout Law Firm, PLLC, has experienced military divorce attorneys in Harrison County, Harris County, and the greater Houston area.
Texas Grounds for Divorce
To file for divorce in Texas, you generally need to specify a reason or ground for the divorce. Texas has several grounds, including a no-fault divorce.
A no-fault divorce means that neither spouse is necessarily at fault. Under Texas law, the no-fault ground for divorce is called “insupportability.” This means that there is a conflict between the spouses that has no reasonable expectation of resolution.
You can specify that your spouse is at fault for the divorce if you so choose. Texas also has several fault grounds for divorce that include:
- Confinement in a mental hospital;
- Living apart for three or more years; or
- Conviction of a felony.
It is unnecessary to specify one of these fault grounds for a divorce in Texas. However, if the court finds a spouse at fault, it may affect the division of property.
Some of the grounds may be particularly tricky for a military divorce. So if you’d like to specify fault, you should speak with one of our experienced divorce lawyers for military spouses. At the Stout Law Firm, PLLC, you can find an experienced military divorce attorney in Harris County to help you understand your rights.
Serving Divorce Papers on the Service Member
Service requirements also dictate whether Texas will have authority or jurisdiction to hear a divorce. The spouse filing the divorce must have the non-filing spouse served in person. But it can be tricky to serve divorce papers to a military spouse, especially if they are deployed.
Plus, if the military spouse is the respondent and not the initiator of the divorce, they have extra protections under the federal Servicemember Civil Relief Act in a court proceeding. Specifically, the court cannot enter a default judgment against them without first appointing a lawyer to represent their interests. Additionally, the court must stay the proceeding for 90 days or longer if the attorney cannot contact the servicemember—or if the servicemember needs to assert their defense in person.
Continuing Benefits for the Civilian Spouse and Children After Divorce
After a divorce, the civilian spouse may be eligible for military health benefits. Whether the civilian spouse receives military health benefits after a divorce depends on the length of the marriage and the servicemember’s enlistment.
Generally, if the military spouse has been in the military for at least 20 years, the marriage has lasted at least 20 years, and the marriage and military service overlapped for 20 years—the civilian spouse will continue to receive their health benefits after the divorce. However, these benefits will end if the civilian spouse remarries. This is called the 20/20/20 Rule.
If the marriage and military service overlapped by only 15 years, the civilian spouse may be eligible for one year of health insurance after the divorce. Any ex-spouse not meeting these qualifications isn’t eligible for military health benefits.
However, the children of the servicemember may still receive military health benefits, regardless of the marriage duration. In fact, children of service members are typically covered until age 21, or even later if the children are students or disabled. The children may be entitled to additional benefits depending on the circumstances.
Divorce lawyers for military wives, husbands, and service members can help you understand who is entitled to military health benefits after a divorce.
Division of the Military Pension and Other Marital Property
In a military divorce, the Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act provides that state law dictates the division of marital property. Texas is a community property state. Generally, community property means that all property acquired during the marriage is considered marital property.
Community property doesn’t include separate property. Generally, separate property is the property that one of the spouses inherited individually, received as a gift, or acquired before the marriage.
The court divides community property in a manner that is “just and right.” Some factors that a court may consider to determine what is “just and right” include:
- Who is at fault;
- The earning differences between the spouses;
- Who has the custody of the children (if any);
- Each spouse’s health; and
- Each spouse’s earning potential.
The court may also consider many other factors in its decision. For instance, a military pension acquired during the marriage is community property. A Texas court can award the civilian spouse a portion of the military pension upon divorce. However, the U.S. Department of Defense can only issue pension payments directly to the civilian spouse if the marriage lasted at least 10 years and the marriage and service overlapped by 10 years.
If you’re in the Houston area, you should consult a Houston military divorce lawyer for more information on property division.
Hire an Experienced Houston Military Divorce Attorney
You do not have to navigate your military divorce alone. A military divorce in Texas requires knowledge and experience with this unique area of the law. At the Stout Law Firm, PLLC, we have attorneys who have been Board Certified in Family Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Not many attorneys have this honorable distinction. We look forward to using our expertise to fight for you, and we won’t stop until we get positive results for you and your family! Contact us for a consultation today.
Our skilled attorneys handle other types of cases as well, including: