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Can a JAG Help Me Divorce My Service Member?

Just Divorced

Dear Q&B,

I heard that I can go to the on-base JAG to help me get a divorce from my service member, but only if he hasn’t beat me there first. I was told they can only help one of us. Is that true?

Can’t Take It Anymore

Dear Can’t Take It,

Deciding to pursue a divorce is a big decision. We are not lawyers here at the Questions and Benefits team, so please seek actual legal advice in addition to our help. 

Like many confusing benefits rumors, there is some truth to what you heard — and some misinformation. The most important thing to know is that military spouses can get some legal assistance from the Judge Advocate General (JAG) even if their troop sought help there first. 

Of course, it is a little bit more complicated than that. Here’s the deal: According to Army JAG Capt. Matthew Reid, who often helps us with JAG related questions, the on-base legal assistance office can give you a free consultation. If your troop has sought advice from that specific attorney already, there is a “conflict of interest.” But that doesn’t mean no one can help you. You can still ask to see an “unconflicted attorney” in that office. 

It’s possible that your legal assistance office has a short bench and there literally is not another attorney available. In that case, they may be able to refer you to assistance at a different base. For example, Reid said he has referred spouses to a nearby naval base for help, while the attorney there has also sent troops to him when there is a conflict. 

Can a JAG help you with your divorce? Sort of. The legal assistance office won’t actually help you file for divorce. However, they will be able to give you military specific divorce advice on issues such as benefits and pensions, Reid said. They also may be able to refer you to a reduced fee divorce attorney in the correct jurisdiction in which you need to file (which may not be where you are living).  

While we always hope that divorce isn’t a military spouse’s go-to recourse, we also know that sometimes there are few other healthy options. We hope you are able to do whatever is truly best for you.

Team Q&B

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