Your First-Time Meeting with a Military Divorce Attorney

The divorce process is hard, especially when you are not in the legal field and when the emotions are intense.  When your spouse is in the military, do different rules apply?  How do you and your children obtain support while your spouse is away on active duty or in an unknown location?  Those are some of the common questions that we often deal with when our client is trying to divorce their active military spouse.

First, when you look for an attorney to assist you, make sure your attorney is familiar with military services divorce.  In military services divorce, the service of process is different and the court tends to give them more time to file a response.  As a result, a default judgment is more difficult to obtain since you would first need to prove that the party is in the military and that you did satisfy the service rules.  Besides the differences in the service of process rules, the calculation of child and spousal support is also a little different from average people due to the special benefits that are provided by the government.

As a result, when you meet your attorney the first time, you need to bring the following:

  • Certificate of Service. You first need to show that your spouse is in the military, and if they are active or retired. You can easily go online to find this information; your attorney can also look it up on the website for the Defense Finance Accounting Service, under your spouse’s full name and his or her social security number.
  • DD Form 214, (DD stands for Department of Defense). We need this form to determine if the spouse is released or discharged from active service.  This can also tell us the spouse’s ranking and pay grade, and how they were discharged.  It also gives us the date and time when they enter and leave the service.
  • Leave and Earning Statement of the service member (LES). Your spouse can obtain the last twelve months of his or her pay check online. LES will provide all their wage information and their benefits to determine child and spousal support. This is useful for all military services members, except for the Coast Guard.
  • Retiree Account Statement (RAS), is to show how much retired service members are paid from their retirement benefit. RAS is a two page document that would show us how the service member’s retired benefit is calculated or received, and if their former spouse is receiving their retirement benefit and how much.
  • If your spouse is in the Coast Guard or a Reservist, a Statement of Retirement Points would be useful. This statement will show the history of their employment by stating how many creditable years will count towards their retirement pay.
  • Family Care Plan, if there is one, this is very helpful to help you establish child custody when there are children involved. Although it does not replace the court in its order, it is useful to look at parties’ intent and can even be incorporated in their marital separation agreement or divorce decree.

Military Divorce can be tricky, but with the right documents in your hand, it can make this process easier for you and your attorney.