You were told that military servicemembers have a higher divorce rate, but that doesn’t make it any easier. Most soldiers that come into our office are shocked and didn’t see it coming. If that’s you, you aren’t alone. The question is what to do next. Burying your head in the sand isn’t an option. Since you were served within the State of Washington, you have 20 days to file your response. If you don’t file a response within 20 days, you will be in default. You don’t want to be in default.
Getting served while on active duty and going overseas?
If you are leaving to go overseas soon, SCRA is your best friend. The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) will allow you to stay the proceedings or “stop the clock” while you take care of your responsibilities to our country.
Do I even need an attorney? Often times, no.
Your first question to ask yourself is do I need an attorney? For junior enlisted soldiers with short marriages, generally no you don’t especially if you don’t have children. In those cases, if you need help and want to protect yourself, consider for pro se services as your first option. The JAG office can be a good bet, but so can free legal clinics if you want to talk to a private attorney. Many family attorneys offer free consultations; please note, we do not offer free consultations. If you are going it alone, make sure he or she isn’t trying to get anything you own. That should be your bright line.
If your an Army officer with children and/or have a long term marriage, you are going to want to have someone at least take a look at the petition for dissolution that was served upon you. If you do end up hiring an attorney, make sure your attorney is familiar with unique issues related to military divorces such as the 20/10 rule. They should be familiar with USFSPA and working through the mechanics of whether or not you want to even accept jurisdiction in Washington State. This is important because many states have more favorable laws for asset divisions and your home state may be one of them.