At some point, yes, you will want local legal representation. You certainly need legal advice immediately.
As a service member on active duty, you can get free legal advice through the military’s legal division, the Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps. Even if you are in a fairly active combat zone, your request for JAG assistance will be answered. JAG personnel can keep you informed of your legal rights.
JAG attorneys do not represent servicemembers in divorce cases. They may not be completely up-to-date on the specific divorce law in North Carolina (or any other state). In other words, your JAG contact will be able to explain legal jargon to you and give you a good fundamental understanding of your legal position, but he or she will not give you all the help you need.
You may want to seek a delay in your divorce case under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA). This 2003 law was passed to “freeze the action” on civil lawsuits where one or both parties to the suit are active military personnel. At your request, the North Carolina court that is handling your divorce will delay the proceedings for 90 days. If you are still overseas at the end of this period, you can request additional extensions—but the court is not required to grant any delays after the first one.
Still, 90 days gives you a good period of time to find a North Carolina divorce attorney to represent you in your case. If you are having trouble finding a lawyer you trust, your JAG attorney can contact law firms stateside and help you find one for your divorce case. And, if the court denies your request for an extended delay in the proceedings, the judge will appoint a lawyer to protect your interests if you have not hired a divorce attorney in North Carolina.
If you want to try going through a divorce without a lawyer… well, let’s be honest: our law firm usually isn’t in the position of saying, “No, don’t hire an attorney.” But, if you and your wife have come to an agreement that your marriage must end, and you agree on all issues concerning dividing your property, and you agree on child care and child support and alimony, and if you trust her completely not to take advantage of your absence, then you probably can go forward with a no-fault divorce in North Carolina without the aid of a lawyer. We hope it works out okay for you.
If you want the assurance of a trustworthy legal representative to look after your interests in court, Speaks Law can work on your behalf in your divorce action. We can consult with you by phone, e-mail, or Skype—yes, we’ll work around the time difference—to keep you up-to-date on progress. We can e-mail you copies of all the correspondence with the court and opposing counsel. You might be thousands of miles away, but we will keep you “in the loop.”
Contact our Wilmington family law firm at your convenience at 910-341-7570 or use the handy online message box on this page. We can act as your eyes and ears stateside to preserve your interests while you serve our nation overseas. It would be an honor to work with you.
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