Ask a JAG

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Q: My spouse and I have been having some marital difficulties and are separating and possibly divorcing.  If we decide to pursue this route, what services can the Stuttgart Law Center provide to us?

A: The Stuttgart Law Center can provide invaluable assistance to you and others contemplating divorce, including face to face legal support and guidance from a licensed American and/or German attorney, explaining what, if any, military benefits you may be entitled to, as well as offering free legal services. These free services are available to all military members and Department of Defense employees.

Upon calling Legal Assistance, the paralegal will assist you in setting up an initial consultation with an attorney to discuss your situation.  At this initial consultation, the attorney will listen to your situation and assist you in pursuing the appropriate legal action. Because each individual’s circumstances differ, the attorney will help you figure out what course of action is best for you.  For many individuals, this may be to work with their spouse and the attorney in drafting up a separation agreement. 

A separation agreement is a contract, signed and notarized by both parties, in which the married couple decides on how to split up their assets, including, but not limited to, real estate, monetary matters, retirement issues, child custody, and visitation issues. These issues (if applicable) must be addressed either in a separation agreement or at the time of divorce. By spearheading the issue and having both parties agree to the terms of the separation, the parties can often save thousands of dollars in attorney’s fees and hours of headache litigating these differences in a courtroom.

Another advantage of a separation agreement is that it is helpful when the couple is initiating an Early Return of Dependents for the non-military spouse and/or beginning the six or twelve month separation period required by some, but not all, states prior to getting a divorce.

After separation, if the married couple does decide to pursue a divorce, the Law Center can assist by communicating with their civilian attorney to ensure that they are being well-represented and that their civilian attorney fully understands the complexities of military regulations, pay, benefits, and retirement. By regulation, Army Judge Advocates are unable to provide in-court representation. By policy, the Law Center is unable to represent both parties of a marriage. This guarantees that both parties in a divorce action are provided with the best possible legal advice.

This column is not intended as individual or specific legal advice. If you have specific issues or concerns, you should consult a judge advocate at 421-4152/ civ. 0711-729-4152.