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Deployments are not getting shorter and realistically there is no end in sight. You must take the following action to ensure you do not return home and find everything gone after a long deployment overseas.

Here are the bitter facts: 67% of all deployed soldiers return to a divorce and 90% will be divorced within 5 years of returning from deployment. For most, this will end your military career because of financial and emotional destruction. You cannot defend yourself against the emotional scarring and emotional pain you will suffer. But you can take steps to limit the financial damage caused by a spouse who goes rogue while their spouse is deployed. It is this added stress that has become a driving force behind the rash of military and veteran suicides. 70% of military and veteran suicides have had some type of contact, or pending contact, with the family court system. You must remember: JAG will not assist you at all in civil matters.

You must assist yourself. Take the following steps to ensure you have some degree of peace of mind. Save yourself from a costly retainer fee. But, if you need outside intervention, this is your ace in the hole.

1. The day you get your mobilization order seek an attorney and put down a retainer fee.

2. Sign a power of attorney for the attorney to handle your affairs while you are deployed.

3. Make your power of attorney specific: Give the attorney the power to stop any mortgages, credit card applications. Allow him/her access to view your credit and intercede on your behalf if credit is attempted in your name while you are gone.

4. Arm your attorney with a copy of your mobilization orders and a copy of the SCRA - a new law for deployed soldiers and service members.

a. This act limits lawsuits and divorces from being carried out while you are deployed. Make sure your lawyer knows this up front. Most are unfamiliar with this and so are the courts.

b. Have your attorney on standby to file this paperwork with the court if the worst should happen while you are deployed.

c This will give you legal standing in Federal court if have a judgment of any kind put against you while deployed.

5. Open a bank account in your name only and fill out direct deposit forms. Leave a copy with your attorney to take it to the Finance office. You keep a copy to file with Finance in-country.

A. This will allow you to control your money. Returning home after 15 months away to a zero bank account is devastating to say the least.

B. Allowing you to control your money gives you a huge advantage in case of divorce and separation

C. Almost never will a "soon to be ex-spouse" be ordered to return any money that was spent and or squandered.

Remove any personal property from the household that has any significant value to you. The most common items are gun collections, extra cars, motorcycles and boats. Make sure you have copies of any pictures and records that are of value to you and have them stored off site. Too many service men have returned home to finding out that everything they owned was sold and/or given away.

A. Get an off post storage area to hold your items and pay at least one year in advance. Keep it only in your name.

B. Make sure you notify the facility that only you and your attorney are to have access to this storage space.

C. Again any property left is up for grabs and will more than likely be sacrificed and lost forever in a divorce.

D. No judge will ever order the return of property that was a joint marital asset if it was disposed of before a divorce was filed.

7. For servicemen with children Pre-fill out a motion for divorce with a parenting plan and leave it with your attorney. Have him file this if the following should happen:

A. Your spouse moves away or out of state with your child while you are deployed;

B. Your spouse suddenly disappears while you are deployed;

C. You feel you have to file for divorce.

This is done to ensure that the divorce is handled where you live and not in another state hundreds of miles away from you. In most cases, if the spouse can set up residence in another state for 6 months, they can file for divorce and that state will handle the case. In most instances, you have lost your children if this is allowed to happen.

8 . If the worst happens and you have to implement this plan your actions in protecting yourself may cause your Chain-of-Command to get involved. If this happens, refer them to your attorney and remind them that JAG does not handle a civil matter.

Some of these steps may sound harsh; however, we are talking about outside forces that may control the rest of your life. I am not saying don't trust your wife; what I am saying is take control over your destiny and guarantee some piece of mind for yourself when you have to march off to war. Anything can happen. Again, a quick review

1. JAG cannot help you in a civil matter.

2. Get an attorney. It is better to have and not need, then to need and not have.

3. Arm your attorney with the tools he needs to fight for you in your absence.

4. Remove your valuables from the home and store them somewhere else.

5. Pre-fill out a motion for divorce. Your attorney should to do this before you leave. It is only a precaution if the worst should happen.

6. Get a standby bank account to preserve your financial standing if the worst should happen.

7. Most important: KEEP THESE ACTIONS TO YOURSELF. If the worst should happen, you want surprise and protection on YOUR side.

This is just some friendly advice from someone who has been there ,and done that, and lived to tell the tale.

Submitted by Terrance Popp

Last verified December 2009
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