Military Divorce
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San Antonio Military Divorce Attorney

Ben R. Chappell is one of the firms partners and a retired Colonel in the USAF Reserve Judge Advocate General Corps (JAG). He has many years experience in military law. Combined with his Collaborative Law experience, Ben is uniquely qualified to handle your military divorce or other military-related cases.

Military divorce, is defined as a divorce where one of the parties (the "service member") is active duty military, reserve or guard, or retired military. This is not a "legal" term that is recognized within the context of the law, but a lay term used to describe a divorce where one of the parties is a service member (regardless of the member's status).

Being a service couple does not exempt the parties from the same requirements that civilian couples must meet when filing for divorce. However, there are some states that have relaxed the residency requirements for active duty service personnel who want to file for divorce in the state in which they are stationed.

Military couples will also go through the same procedural process when divorcing. But they must also be aware that there are other factors that the typical civilian couple will not have to address, and which may prolong the process because of the very nature of one of the party's military service, such as an active duty assignment in a remote area, or a permanent station overseas.

Ben Chappell Retired USAF JAG
Ben R. Chappell
Colonel USAF Reserves (JAG)


Besides understanding the basic divorce process, it is imperative that military couples are knowledgeable in the factors that will affect their divorce as a result of military service. It is imperative that your attorney have experience in dealing with the federal law that divides military retired pay and not only your state's own laws about divorce.


Bray, Chappell & Patterson, Inc. Military Divorce

Military & Divorce: Factors that Affect Military Divorces:

Just as in a civilian divorce, a military divorce will involve procedural requirements, property distribution, and perhaps child support or maintenance. It is the division of military retired pay that presents some unusual considerations in military divorce.

In the process of doing discovery, your attorney will need information from you and also needs to know whether any of the factors will affect your particular situation. These factors include the following:

  • Jurisdiction. The service member often has a choice of which state to file in, commonly known as "forum shopping." Some states are more favorable to the military member, others to the spouse.
  • Disability pay. Is the service member already retired? Receiving disability pay? (from the VA or the military service?) Is the amount 100% or a lesser amount? If the military member is still on active duty, what possibility is there that he or she will apply for VA compensation? VA compensation reduces the amount of disposable retired pay going to the former spouse.
  • Active duty status. If the service member is still on active duty, the decree must address the requirements of due process under the Soldiers' and Sailors' Civil Relief Act.
  • Separation bonuses. Does the service member anticipate leaving active duty before the requisite 20 years' service time is met for a military retirement? Does your state recognize such a bonus as marital or community property? if the member plans to join the reserve/guard, there are restrictions on the bonus and pay-back requirements. These situations must not only be anticipated, but addressed by the divorcing couple.
  • Transfer to the reserve/guard. Are you aware of how the members of the reserve/guard compute retirement time and earn points or pay for that time? If already a member of a Reserve Component, does the member have any "bad" years or inactive or IRR years? How much time has been spent in a non-paid status in the reserves? Do you know how to address such lapses in service time when computing the marital portion for the award of retired pay? (If you don't know what a bad year is or what IRR stands for, you need help.)

If you cannot answer these questions easily, then you need to educate yourself on what these situations entail. Help is available through the book, Divorce and the Military II. You can use these questions, also, when interviewing an attorney to determine whether the attorney will be suitable to handle your divorce. In addition, you need to know about the federal benefits you may lose as a result of leaving active duty early (if you are the service member, even if you are considering transferring to the Reserves) or divorcing before the 20-year point (if you are the spouse).

The Law Offices of Bray, Chappell & Patterson, Inc. represents clients with legal concerns throughout Texas including but not limited to the San Antonio area including Bexar County, Comal County, Guadalupe County, Kendall County, Medina County, Wilson County, Atascosa County, Bandera County, Travis County, Hays County and cities including San Antonio, Austin, San Marcos, Floresville, Jourdanton, New Braunfels, Boerne, Bandera, Seguin, and Hondo.

Our Texas divorce law firm also represents officers and enlisted personnel at Randolph Air Force Base, Lackland Air Force Base, Brooke Army Medical Center, and military installations around the world.


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