Military divorce in Texas differs from civilian marriage dissolution in some unique ways. While the Texas Family Code governs most issues, several exceptions and additions apply to active duty members. Also, rules for different military branches can slightly vary. For example, a divorce in the army, navy, or air forces may have various provisions for calculating alimony or child support.
Two major federal acts are used to determine spouses' respective rights and responsibilities in a military family: the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) and the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act (USFSPA). They allow Texas courts to treat such issues as retirement benefits and protect service members from default judgments.
Protection from military divorce proceedings in Texas
There are several federal laws in place for the military divorce process. One of them is the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) enacted to establish protective measures for military members such as the termination of rental agreements, mortgages, interest payments, etc. One of the primary considerations was to protect an active duty service member from divorce while deployed.
As a rule, Texas courts allow postponing the proceedings until the end of a service member's active duty no matter how long it takes. Besides, they also have up to 60 days after the active duty to respond to a divorce claim. In comparison, a spouse in a civil marriage usually only has 20 days to file the response.
Filing for divorce in Texas is possible for couples who meet the residency requirements. The general rule is for one spouse to be the state’s domiciliary for six months and a county resident where the suit is to be filed for 90 days before the action's commencement. Additionally, Texas military divorce laws provide that any resident stationed outside Texas or overseas also meets the residency requirements.
Divorce for military members who have never been Texas residents can be obtained if they have been stationed in the state and a specific county for six months and 90 days, respectively. Any spouse divorcing a military member is also considered domiciliary and can file for divorce in Texas if they were accompanying their spouses on active duty for the mentioned periods.
Serving an active duty spouse
The general rules for military divorce include serving the divorce papers on a spouse who is on active duty. The divorce proceedings start when a service member is correctly served with the divorce documents. One of the main requirements is that these papers must be served in person. It can be problematic, especially when the spouse is stationed in another state.
However, there is another option for couples who have decided to end their marriage amicably. If both agree on all critical issues of their separation, they can proceed with an uncontested divorce. In this case, a military spouse does not have to serve the papers in person as long as the service member signs a waiver affidavit.
Grounds for a military divorce in Texas
Legal grounds for filing for divorce in the military coincide with a civilian divorce case. When divorcing a soldier, a party to the marriage can provide the court with one of the following reasons to obtain a divorce decree:
- Abandonment for one year;
- Separation for three years;
- The commitment of a felony and imprisonment for at least one year;
- Confinement in a mental hospital.
Insupportability simply means that you and your spouse have disagreements to such an extent that your marriage cannot be saved. It is a common ground for an uncontested divorce when there is no need to prove anyone’s guilt. As for confinement in a mental institution, it has to occur and continue for three years with no chance for recovery.
The division of property in Texas for military marriages is almost identical to civil unions. According to state law, all assets and debts acquired by spouses in marriage will be divided fairly regardless of their acquisition location. Individual property is not subject to division and will remain with its owner. Such separate property includes inheritance, gifts, and anything acquired before the wedding.
In addition to general laws that apply to all types of marriages, federal laws directly affect military marriages. The Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act (USFSPA) specifically regulates a retirement benefits' disbursement. Retirement pay in a Texas military divorce will be divided if the spouses have lived in marriage for ten years while the service member has been on active duty.
Child custody and support
In Texas, family law courts require that the parents compile a parenting plan to indicate the custody and visitation schedule. In any military divorce with children, a couple must also consider what will happen if the active duty member is sent to another state or overseas. The spouses should add provisions that take into account all possible circumstances of future deployment to the plan.
Child support obligation in Texas is calculated according to child support guidelines and based on the monthly net income and number of children. For example, if you have one child, they will receive 20% of your income each month. Two children will get 25% and so on. However, the general obligation cannot exceed 60% of a service member’s pay and allowances. In difficult cases, the help of an experienced attorney is advisable.
Service in the armed forces does not affect a military member’s obligation to pay spousal support if there is a court order. A judge determines whether a military spouse needs alimony in any divorce proceeding by considering such factors as the dependent spouse's income and employment prospects. If a couple has a prenuptial agreement, the court will follow the terms established in the contact.
Spousal support can be short-termed or awarded for an extended period. Its duration is determined according to the marriage’s length and the obligor's ability to pay it. Marital misconduct or the relationship between the spouses does not influence the amount or type of alimony. Again, the overall alimony amount plus child support cannot exceed 60% of a member’s monthly allowances.
Filing procedure for military members
First, file a Petition for Divorce at the District Clerk’s office in the county where you meet the residency requirements. Make two copies, one of which will be used to notify your spouse. The Clerk will assign a case number to your papers after you pay the filing fee.
Next, you need to give legal notice to your spouse. There are three ways to do it: in person, by mail, or publication. After your spouse has been served, you need to file an affidavit of service with the court. Your spouse can file an answer in 20 days that enables them to receive notice of court hearings. The final judgment can only be issued after a 60-day waiting period has passed following the filing.
Rights and benefits of a military spouse in a divorce
The Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act (USFSPA) specifically protects a former military spouse's rights after divorce. It determines the portion of a service member retirement pay that the other spouse will receive. Any military family must live in marriage for at least ten years to divide the retirement pay. Military spouse entitlements also include healthcare benefits.
There are several types of benefits that a spouse of a service member is eligible for. They consider the number of years spent together as a married couple and how many of them overlapped with the active service. Under the 20/20/20 rule (20 years of service, 20 years of marriage, and 20 years overlapping between them), a non-military spouse is entitled to TRICARE medical treatment, health insurance, and other benefits.
If a 20-year marriage has an overlap of 15 years with the active service, a former spouse will only receive one-year of TRICARE medical coverage and access to military pharmacies. The two mentioned rules apply if a spouse remains unmarried and has no other insurance plan. For those who do not meet the 20/20/20 or 20/20/15 rules, there is CHCBP - Continued Health Care Benefit Program.
How we can help
If you are considering going through the divorce procedure by yourself, without a lawyer, you will need a package of required documents. The forms that you can get from OnlineDivorce.com are updated continuously and comply with state standards. Having ready-made documents on hand, you can complete your case in the shortest possible time and with minimum effort.
How long does a military divorce take in Texas?
Under Texas law, you can get a final decree no earlier than 60 days after you file your petition. In reality, this process will take you from 5 months to a year, depending on the circumstances and your spouses’ willingness to compromise.
What makes military divorce in Texas different?
Although military divorce is in many ways similar to a civilian one, it involves additional legal issues when it comes to choosing where to file, serving the papers, and the division of property. A few protective laws even allow a service member to postpone and delay the process. Therefore, before starting any action, it is essential to understand how federal and state laws are aligned.
How much does it cost to get a military divorce in Texas?
It is difficult to provide an exact cost of divorce because each couple and each case is unique. The minimum fee to start the process is the $300 fee you will pay when filing a petition. Other costs depend on how you decide to handle your case. If you hire a lawyer, expect to pay at least $1,000 for uncontested marriage dissolution and $12,000-$30,000 for a contested one.
Where to file for a military divorce in Texas?
Typically, you have to file your case where you or your spouse has a legal residence. It can be tricky for military members on active duty. One of the spouses must reside in Texas or be stationed there to file in the state. You can file your case in a local district court at the county of your residence.