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Things you should know about Military Divorce

Practicing divorce/family law near Barksdale Air Force Base, servicemen or their spouses frequently come to my office for a consultation.  Here are a few things to know about the military divorce.

The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (formerly known as the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Civil Relief Act) allows for a stay of proceedings (or continuance) for 90 days or more if certain requirements are met:

– a statement regarding how the servicemember’s current military duties materially affect his ability to appear and providing a date when the servicemember will be available to appear

– a statement from the servicemember’s commanding officer stating that the servicemember’s military duties prevent his appearance, and stating that military leave is not authorized for the servicemember at the time

The family law section of the American Bar Association’s website contains “A Judge’s Guide to the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act.”  It provides an overview of the act and information about the requirements and protections of the Act.

Family Support/Military Rules and Regulations

Servicemembers are required to provide adequate support to their spouses and children.  And each branch has its own regulations dealing with the subject (the Air Force’s policy is found at SECAF INST. 36-2906 and AFI 36-2906).

Knowing the pay and allowances of the servicemember is crucial in determining support.  All servicemembers receive a twice-monthly leave-and earnings statement (LES).  In addition to the base pay (salary) there are allowances, BAH (basic allowance for housing) and BAS (basic allowance for subsistence), which are not taxable.  Combat zone pay is also tax free.

For garnishment resources, check out the Defense Finance and Accounting Service website.  Military finance offices will honor a garnishment order that is “regular on its face.”  42 USC 659(f).

Custody/Visitation

Louisiana’s Military Parent and Child Custody Protection Act (La. R.S. 9:359, et seq) also provides protection for servicemembers and their children, including:

– reasonable visitation during periods of military absence
– expedited hearings when the member’s military absence is imminent
– termination of temporary modification orders by operation of law upon completion of the servicemember’s deployment
– electronic testimony when the member cannot appear in person for court because of his duties
– delegation of visitation when the servicemember is absent because of his duties
– retention of custody jurisdiction when the court has entered a custody order and a child is absent from the state during deployment
– appointment of counsel for the child when a stay of proceedings is denied
– awarding attorney fees when either party causes unreasonable delay or fails to provide requisite information

Further, if a servicemember is keeping the children beyond the date of return in the custody order, the custodial parent can use Department of Defense Instruction 5525.09, 32 CFR Part 146 to obtain the return of the children from a foreign country.  This Instruction makes servicemembers, employees, and family members outside the US comply with custody/visitation court orders, requiring the return of minor children.

Jean-Paul Guidry is a Shreveport divorce lawyer.  Call 318-865-4878 to make an appointment for a free consultation.

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