To maintain a suit for divorce in Texas, one of the parties must be living in Texas for six months and the county of filing for 90 days prior to filing the suit. Sometimes that’s not possible for military members and other Federal employees who are absent on public service. All is not lost. The Texas Family Code Section 6.303, “Absence on Public Service,” provides and exception for these public servants and their spouses.
Military members and other Federal employees serving outside of Texas can still file for divorce in Texas if Texas is their “domicile” (i.e. if Texas is considered to be the permanent home they intend to return to after completion of public service that compels their absence). The same right exists for a spouse who is a Texas domiciliary but absent because of the other spouse’s public service. Perhaps two examples will help clarify.
Example #1. John grew up in Bexar County Texas and considers it to be his domicile, or permanent home. John has been living outside of Texas for the last 8 years due to three military assignments. His first assignment was in Germany. The second was in California. While assigned to and residing in California, John met and married Mary.
John and Mary are now living in North Carolina, on John’s third military assignment. Sadly, the marriage is not working out. John may, if he wishes to do so, file for divorce in Bexar County, Texas. The time John has spent outside of Texas and Bexar County does not count against him since his absence was driven by military service.
Example #2. Sally grew up in Bexar County, Texas and considers it to be her domicile or permanent home. Sally met and married William, a Federal employee (Dept of Homeland Security) while William was stationed in San Antonio. Despite being stationed at San Antonio, William always considered Syracuse, New York to be his domicile or permanent residence. Eventually, the Dept of Homeland Security reassigned the couple to duty Ohio. Sadly, the marriage is not working out. Sally may, if she wishes to do so, file for divorce in Bexar County, Texas. The time Sally has spent outside of Texas and Bexar County does not count against her since her absence was driven by her spouse’s public service.
Despite having the right to file in Texas, there may be reasons for a Texas domiciliary absent by reason of public service for not doing so. Other important jurisdictional issues may apply that affect children and/or property. Speak with a qualified military or Federal civil service divorce attorney before deciding whether filing in Texas is best based on the facts of your specific situation.
Author Jim Cramp is a retired active duty colonel and principal attorney at the Cramp Law Firm. The Cramp Law Firm provides a spectrum of family-related legal services in the greater San Antonio Region.