Although service members sign their names on the dotted line, their families are also very much a party to their loved one’s contract with the military. The burdens of service that can be imposed on the men and women in uniform, including regular reassignments and relocations, overseas deployments and the risks of combat, are in many ways borne moreso by their loved ones. Unfortunately, the stresses of military service can sometimes lead to the breakup of relationships and marriages. This section will cover many of the legal issues that arise for families of service members, from what steps you should take if you get married and have children while in the military to what needs to be done when a military family faces a separation or divorce. While you’re probably working hard to avoid disruptions to your family life, it's important to know the rules and resources that apply to you and your family.
Getting Married and Having Children
One of the unique aspects of active duty life in the military is the opportunity to live in foreign countries and to meet people from all over the world. In many cases, service members find themselves falling in love with a foreign national. But what happens if they get married? All of a sudden a service member needs to consider whether the marriage would be recognized by the military and whether he or she can travel with a non-citizen spouse for the next tour of duty.
Service members may also confront specific legal questions if they have a child born while stationed abroad. For example, would that child be considered a U.S. citizen, a citizen of the country of birth, or both? This section will address these questions as well as some of the unique issues the military’s married couples and their families face. It will also address many of the child care options available to service members.
Separation, Divorce, Custody and Care
It's always a challenging time when a marriage is coming to an end. Maybe both spouses have tried everything they can and are simply unable to reconcile their differences. Regardless of the reason, there are important rules and regulations in place that can affect the process of separation and divorce for military couples, particularly when children are involved.
A service member's chain of command plays a role as the military expects service members to adequately provide for their dependents, whether they are married, separated, or divorced. There are regulations providing for specific interim child support payments which, if not followed, can subject a service member to adverse administrative actions or even a court martial. There are also state court orders pertaining to child support, custody and visitation. This section will help you understand the rules involved as well as the interplay between state law and military regulations when it comes to separations and divorces.
While this section will provide you with resources and links to assist you and your family members, you should consider speaking with a military or civilian lawyer, especially if you’re facing the prospect of a separation or divorce. There are important legal issues that must be addressed during this process, such as child support payments, custody of your children and visitation rights, which also will involve a state court. If not properly addressed with the assistance of a qualified family law attorney, the resolution of any separation or divorce can continue to adversely affect your livelihood and family relationships for years to come.