Hiring an Attorney for a Military Divorce
Key Points
  • A military divorce is not a civilian divorce and if you are going to hire a lawyer, make sure the lawyer you seek has knowledge and experience in military divorce. JAG officers may not fully understand the divorce end of military law.
  • You may be able to have a consultation with an attorney for a nominal fee. Make sure you have all your questions ready so you maximize your time with the attorney so you can make an informed decision about hiring him or her.
  • Gather any military specific information necessary including military pay grade, status, pay date, years of service, estimated retirement pay, if the military member has any special pays or allowances, and bring with you any account statements. You should also ask the attorney about his or her military experience, how many military divorces the attorney handled, jurisdiction, or other questions to help you determine if you want to hire the attorney.

The most critical step you will take in your divorce, besides educating yourself about the USFSPA, will be your selection of an attorney. You would not go to a dentist to set your broken leg in a cast, would you? The same advice applies to hiring an attorney to handle your military divorce. There are many types of lawyers, and you need to find one who specializes not only in domestic or family law, but one who specializes in divorce. Further, that person needs to know about the federal law that applies to the military, and of which you will have already educated yourself.

It is imperative that you retain the services of an attorney who is absolutely knowledgeable and experienced in military divorces -a professional who is intimately familiar with military marriages, benefits, and military retirement and divorce law. Do not assume that your resident military installation JAG knows about divorce--the best the base legal office may do is provide you a fact sheet on the USFSPA. It goes without saying--Do not use the same attorney as your spouse. Hire your own.

Many attorneys charge for a consultation. If you are prepared, you should be able to learn in 10 minutes or so whether the attorney is suitable for your case and one you will be comfortable with. Sometimes calling the attorney's office can help you make a decision. A paralegal in the office might be able to answer your basic questions as well, such as whether the attorney handles military divorces at all.

Preparing yourself for a consultation requires that you gather military specific information. This information includes the following: military pay grade, pay date, status, years of service, estimated military retired pay, special pays and allowances, status of spouse during the marriage (how many unaccompanied tours, TDY's, employment, employer-sponsored pension), point accounting statements (for reserve/guard members).

You need to ask the attorney about his experience as well. Some basic questions will include how many military divorces the attorney has handled, the attorney's knowledge of jurisdiction issues (as they pertain to the military), whether the court uses a formula, whether the state can order SBP, and how the attorney determines computations for reservists. If the attorney asks you what SBP is, then you need to assess whether you even want to retain this person.

Useful Online Tools
  • Military Divorce Online - With this online software you will complete and instantly print your divorce forms and step-by-step filing procedures to file your own divorce in a timely, professional, and hassle free fashion.
  • Divorce Negotiation Online - You will be surprised how easy it is to resolve your disputes through our innovative Divorce Negotiation CenterTM. It's FREE. Give it a try.

Suggested Reading
Divorce & the Military II Divorce & the Military II
DIVORCE AND THE MILITARY II is the newly published comprehensive guide for military members (active duty, reserve/guard, and retired), spouses, and their attorneys, on the Uniformed Services Former SpousesŐ Protection Act (USFSPA). The USFSPA is the federal law that permits the award of military retired pay in a divorce.

Author: Marsha L. Thole and Frank W. Ault

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