The Texas Divorce Laws for Deployed Soldiers

by Beverly Bird
The federal government protects you from dealing with divorce while you’re deployed.

The federal government protects you from dealing with divorce while you’re deployed.

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The issue of divorce strikes one in five active duty soldiers within two years of their deployment, according to Divorce Lawyer Source. Federal law protects them from complications like this while they’re serving their country, but it doesn’t cover a broad spectrum. It primarily addresses issues of service of a divorce petition and how long a soldier has to respond. Beyond that, Texas law takes over.

Jurisdiction

Texas has jurisdiction over your divorce if your spouse lives there, or if you were stationed there for the six months immediately preceding your deployment. If you meet these criteria, either you or your spouse can file for divorce within the state.

Service of Process

If your spouse is the one who files for divorce, jurisdiction is not complete until he serves you with a copy of his divorce petition. Under federal law, you must generally consent to the service if you’re deployed. With your consent, your spouse can forward a copy of the petition to the military authority at your location, and that authority can transfer it to you. You also have the right to waive official service if you've agreed to the divorce and you're not contesting it. If you don’t consent to service of the petition by your superior officer, your spouse has a bit of an uphill battle. He can petition the Texas court to allow someone else to serve you, unless you’re stationed on a ship or at a shore facility, but Texas is not obligated to grant such a request. Generally, if you refuse service, he must wait until you come home to proceed.

Servicemembers Civil Relief Act

If your spouse is successful in getting you served, Texas law would normally give you 20 days within which to answer his petition. However, federal law supersedes this. The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act prevents him from filing for default if you don’t answer within the allotted time. Under the terms of the SCRA, you can contact a lawyer in Texas and have her ask the court to delay your divorce until you return home and for up to two months after that. You have the right to waive this protection, so if you do nothing, your spouse can generally proceed with the divorce.

Issues with Children

Texas law takes over with regard to the nuts and bolts of your divorce. It governs issues such as property distribution and custody, and it sets the amount of your child support order based on the factors of your military income. Generally, the same rules apply to you in these areas as they would to a civilian. However, if you’re the custodial parent of your children, and you’re facing deployment, Texas Senate Bill 279, passed September 2009, allows you to transfer custody to their non-custodial parent on an expedited basis before you leave. This is a temporary order and custody automatically reverts back to you when you return home.