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Legal assistance now available for divorce

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKALND, Texas -- The 802nd Mission Support Group/Judge Advocate's legal assistance office is now providing pro se divorce services to all eligible clients at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland.
The phrase "pro se" means that although clients represent themselves, the legal assistance office prepares all of the necessary paperwork and provides systematic briefings to clients until each case has been finalized.

The legal assistance office will only provide divorce assistance to one of the spouses, not both, in order to prevent a conflict of interest.

"In the past, our divorce paperwork was sent to JBSA-Fort Sam Houston for processing," said Arlene Christilles, chief of Civil Law Division at JBSA-Lackland.

"But we now have the resources to handle these cases at JBSA-Lackland. In fact, we are in the process of creating more pro se programs so that we can better serve our clients," Christilles said.

The first step in the process is to schedule an informational meeting with a legal assistance attorney.

"At the first meeting, the client receives a questionnaire along with written step-by-step instructions explaining the entire procedure. At the second meeting, the client receives a petition for filing with the court, and at the third meeting, the client receives a waiver of service and final decree," explained Lori Stradford, chief paralegal of the JBSA-Lackland divorce program.

"The process is actually very simple," Stradford said. "The legal assistance office will do everything it can do to make the process as stress free as possible."

Even if not eligible to participate in the pro se divorce program, the legal assistance office will continue to provide legal advice regarding marriage and divorce law to service members.

As a side note:
  • Once a client meets the eligibility requirements outlined in paragraph 1.3 of Air Force Instruction 51-504, he or she must meet the following additional criteria in order to be eligible to participate in the divorce program:
  • You are not represented by a private lawyer.
  • You or your spouse has resided in the state of Texas for at least six months.
  • You or your spouse has resided in the county where the case is filed for 90 days.
  • You and your spouse are in complete agreement that you want a divorce, and both parties agree to sign the necessary documents in order to finalize the divorce.
  • No fault is asserted by either party.
  • You and your spouse have agreed to the division of assets and debts.
  • Each spouse retains all interest in his or her retirement benefits.
  • No real estate was purchased or financed during the marriage.
  • No children were born during the marriage, the wife is not pregnant, and will not become pregnant during the pendency of the lawsuit.
  • You will be available to appear in court to finalize your case.
For more information about the pro se divorce program, please schedule an initial appointment to meet with a legal assistance attorney by calling 210-671-3362.

If you have additional questions about the pro se divorce program, please contact Lori Stradford at lori.stradford.1@us.af.mil..