Tuesday October 25, 2022

Top Legal Considerations for Military Families

Authored by: Bryen E. Mooney Posted in: Family Law Wills & Estates

Estate Planning

The Judge Advocate General (“JAG”) at times provides military families with a basic Will that may not be substantial enough for specific needs. JAG often provides no further assistance in relation Estate Planning.

Military members and their families should ensure that all estate planning is up to date prior to any time away from Nova Scotia.  This would include a complete and valid Will, Power or Attorney and Medical Directive.

Although most are familiar with the purpose of a Will, not everyone is familiar with a Power of Attorney.  A Power of Attorney provides a chosen individual with the ability to make financial decisions on your behalf when you are not available.  This would include times when you may be deployed or on course, and not able to personally attend to such financial affairs.  Situations may arise during employments where your spouse is required to re-finance your residence, sell the residence, purchase a new residence or even have access to accounts/debts in your sole name.  A Power of Attorney can provide this ability, whether it indicates only a specific power or generally able to make financials decisions in your absence. 

Whether you are an intact family or separated, you should ensure a trusted individual is named as your Power of Attorney in case unexpected financial circumstances arise while you are absent from Nova Scotia.

Parenting Support & Decision Making

During a separation or divorce, a major concern for military families is often parenting arrangements for children, which also includes communication with children while the military member is away from Nova Scotia. Flexible arrangements can help families plan parenting arrangements around deployment and vacations.

Remember, one strict parenting plan may not work for everyone and every situation. Parenting plans may change from family to family and over time to better meet the needs of the child(ren). Communication through legal representation can help organize parenting arrangements that work for everyone.

Important decisions may also be required in relation to children at a time when a deployed parent may have little to no ability to discuss such issues.  Considerations should be made as to whether the parent in care of the children may have some final decision-making authority should there be no response in a particular time period, such as 72 hours.  This will all depend on the important decision to be made and whether it is time sensitive or can wait until the deployed member is again available via telephone or email.

Cohabitation Agreement/Marriage Contract

If military personnel are considering marriage or moving in with a partner, a cohabitation agreement can provide an outline for how assets will be divided should the relationship end.  A marriage contract has the same impact, but is just completed after the parties have been married.

Cohabitation agreements and marriage contracts can cover asset and debt division, including a military members pension. Before two people decide to live together, a cohabitation agreement can outline many important legal and financial considerations.

Travel Declaration

One final item military families may consider is a travel declaration. In any circumstance where one spouse travels with children and without the other parent, issues may arise when crossing borders.

A travel declaration can help limit confusion and delays when travelling with children. This is particularly important for military families when spouses and children may travel internationally to meet or visit service members on deployment. A signed declaration document can insure no issues with a parent travelling with the child(ren) without the military spouse.

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