Top 10 myths about deployments, legal readiness

  • Published
  • By 23rd Wing
  • Legal Office
In an effort to reduce confusion about legal issues during deployments, the 23rd Wing Legal Office is providing answers to frequently asked questions.

10. Dual military couples who have children jointly will both need to complete powers of attorney for their Family Care Plan.
Only one spouse needs to get the powers of attorney and copies can go into the other spouse's Family Care Plan.

9. The State of Georgia will take custody of your children until your primary caregivers can arrive if you need to implement your Family Care Plan.
The State of Georgia will not take custody of your children in that short period of time. The Air Force and your fellow Airmen are here to assist you when you need to implement your Family Care Plan.

8. You must get a general power of attorney.
A general power of attorney gives your agent the right to conduct financial and legal affairs on your behalf, including the right to conduct a variety of transactions such as the ability to buy and sell property, liquidate bank accounts and purchase items on credit. On the other hand, a special power of attorney is limited and only provides your agent the right to act for you to accomplish a specific purpose. In the current climate, companies are more likely to accept a special power of attorney, explicitly stating the exact authority of the individual. A special power of attorney can accomplish all of the same goals as a general power of attorney and should be the document used most often.

7. All companies will accept a power of attorney drafted by a military legal office.
A power of attorney is only as good as the company accepting it. They determine whether this document meets their requirements. Check with the individual companies about what they require for a power of attorney, especially in real estate situations. If you have the specific requirements of the company, the legal office can create one that meets your exact needs. Otherwise, there's no guarantee that our powers of attorney will be accepted.

6. The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act protects military members from every type of legal action while they are deployed.
The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act only protects in limited situations, which is particularly important in family law situations.

An important provision is the ability of a servicemember to delay their judicial proceedings in the family law arena until they are available to appear. However, this law does not create any sort of immunity as it relates to the member's legal obligations. The stay will normally last only as long as the proceedings materially affect the member's service. Once that affect is lifted, the proceedings will go on. In particular in a custody situation, the court will also take into account the best interests of the child before determining whether to grant a stay.

In addition, the SCRA does not protect against every legal proceeding. The member should immediately contact the legal office to determine whether a particular situation qualifies for protection. Also remember that SCRA does not automatically protect the servicemember and affirmative action must be taken to invoke its protections.

5. If your spouse loses the original power of attorney, the base legal office maintains a copy.
The only original is given to the person creating the power of attorney. The legal office does not and cannot maintain copies of all the powers of attorney made in our office.

4. While a servicemember is deployed, the spouse is not entitled to legal services at the home station.
A dependent is always entitled to legal services. Dependents of members who are entitled to an identification card are also entitled to legal assistance services from the legal office. If there is an issue while a spouse is deployed or on a remote assignment, the civilian spouse can come into the legal office to obtain a will, power of attorney or meet with an attorney regarding most civil legal issues.

3. While deployed, servicemembers do not have access to legal services.
Many forward operating bases have legal offices to provide assistance while you are deployed. Judge advocate generals deploy too and work in legal offices similar to those found at home stations. The legal office at a deployed location will generally be able to provide most, if not all, of the same services provided at a home station legal office.

2. Members must have a will before deployment.
The truth is that for those younger, single servicemembers with very few assets, their property will automatically go to their parents or closest relative.

Every state has an "intestacy scheme," which is a basic plan on how your property will be distributed in case you die without a will. Generally, the first person to get the property is a spouse; if none, then children; if none, then parents; if none, brothers and/or sisters, etc. If your will is only going to say "I leave all my property to my parents" you probably do not need a will prior to deployment. This is not to say you should not get one, but you are not required to get a will.

Your family and relatives will not have a hard time getting your property if you die without a will. The state will not come and lock up your home and all your possessions until your family can prove they are your family. In fact, most states will happily pass the property along to family members to alleviate the court system. Most importantly, the state is not going to get all your stuff. If you die and they are unable to locate even a long-lost relative or next of kin, then there is a possible chance the state might get some of your property, but this is highly unlikely.

You do not need to get a will prior to deployment; it is a personal choice you should make on your own, without outside influences. It's even possible that if you are forced to get a will or required to get one, that will won't even be recognized as valid because it was not your choice to obtain it.

1. The biggest myth: What happens in the area of responsibility stays in the AOR.
The Uniform Code of Military Justice was designed for the express purpose to be applicable around the world. No matter where in the world you are located, you are still subject to the same rules and regulations as you are when you are at your home station. The individual with the authority to hand down your punishment may change, but your punishment will still come - no matter where you are in the world.