Military Family Matters

Snohomish County Military Family Matters Lawyer

Every military family is part of a proud tradition that stretches in an unbroken line to the founding of the United States itself. In recognition of this tradition of commitment and sacrifice, federal law offers a number of benefits for military service members and their families. These benefits provide support and protection through life’s challenges, both during and after active duty.

When challenges occur, it’s important to have an attorney on your side who understands the intricacies of military law, regulations, and systems. To speak to a Washington state attorney with firsthand experience inside the military legal system, reach out to the Dabney Law Firm today.

Choosing the Right Military Family Matters Lawyer in Snohomish County

Walton Dabney is a Judge Advocate (“JAG”) in the Air National Guard, and before that spent twelve years on active duty with the United States Air Force. Combined with his expertise in Family Law, he specializes in representing military members and dependents regarding military-specific issues that arise when their family expands… or contracts.

The military retirement/pension system is one of the most complex in the U.S. and may be divided in a divorce. That division is impacted by your years of service, the years of marriage that overlap, your disability rating, your grade, and much more. If you are a military member or spouse facing divorce, make sure your lawyer knows the intricacies or you may end up with far less than what you deserve.

Sometimes a bad breakup can involve accusations of violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), State codes, or other administrative actions. When the accusations start to fly, Walton Dabney can team with your military lawyer (he might personally know them) to provide full-spectrum coverage of your case and ensure your family law issues do not jeopardize your military career or benefits.

Even in the best of breakups, the chain of command may meddle in your family support, no-contact orders, or base housing arrangements. We can represent you to your supervisor, commander, CID/CIS/OSI, and the JAG.

Family Matters Our Law Firm Can Help You Navigate

Walton Dabney can advise and represent you on any Military Family matter, including:

Retirement Retention or Division

The military retirement system can be complex. It’s even more challenging for military family service members. The Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act extends protections to the former spouses of military service members during divorce – but they can also be challenging to navigate. 

Failing to advocate for your rights under the Act can result in a divorce settlement or property distribution that fails to achieve key goals, such as ensuring an equitable division of marital property. The result may be less security and protection for you and your children at a time you need it most.

The Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act doesn’t automatically apply in every divorce, your family law court will ultimately decide its applicability. To make a case for the benefits you need and deserve, it’s important to work with an experienced attorney. 

UCMJ and Administrative Actions

The UCMJ is the federal criminal law that applies to all uniformed service personnel on orders under Title 10 of the United States Code (often called “active duty”). Actions may be brought against a service member under the UCMJ as Nonjudical punishment, a court-martial, or form the foundation of an administrative proceeding. Both UCMJ and administrative actions can have profound effects on the service member’s career – from a reprimand to jail time, to punitive discharge that can threaten post-service benefits. 

Potential adverse administrative actions can include:

  • Bad performance reviews and adverse/unfavorable information filed,
  • Being denied a promotion or being administratively demoted,
  • Removal from a special status, position or losing security clearance, and
  • Letters of reprimand which may be disqualifying for future opportunities.

Not every accusation against a service member calls for a court-marital but most accusations are taken seriously. Regardless of the type of action, a finding of guilt can harm your career, your reputation, and your plans for the future. An experienced military lawyer who understands the impact of the charges you face can become your strongest ally in presenting your side of the case and protecting your interests. You are entitled to a military defense lawyer free of charge, make sure your family lawyer will be a knowledgeable team player and work together to protect you.

Family and Military Law Overlap

Family law matters can be more complicated when one spouse is a military service member. Most of the same issues arise in a military divorce as in other divorces. However, the complex nature of military service, military assignments around the globe, and military benefits can impact how a family case proceeds. 

Issues that can arise in a family support case involving a military service member include:

  • Where to file a case with a family law court. State courts typically have certain requirements for those who file claims in their courts. For example, a state may require a person to live in that state for a minimum number of months or years before filing a divorce claim. These dates are tough to calculate, however, when you’re in a state because you’ve been assigned there for military service. 
  • How to calculate child support. Different states have different approaches to calculating child support. Many also consider how parents share custody when calculating support as well. When one parent is serving on active duty, questions about calculating support become more challenging.
  • How to determine child custody. Custody decisions ask both where the child will live and how the parents will make major decisions for the child. When one parent is on a long term deployment at sea or overseas, some presume that the children will live with the other parent – but it’s not always the case that military families share custody in this way. When both parents are also military service members, custody questions may become even more complex. The help of an experienced attorney is essential.
  • How to divide retirement benefits. A military service member’s spouse may have the right to part of their former spouse’s military retirement benefits, especially if the marriage overlaps the service dates. Certain requirements apply to different types of retirement benefits. Determining exactly which benefits a spouse is entitled to and how to access them can prove challenging. 

Federal law also affects family matters involving military service members. These laws are typically designed to protect service members, their children, and in some cases their spouses or former spouses. Since state courts are accustomed to making family law decisions based on their state law, they may be unfamiliar with how these federal rules work and how to apply them in particular situations. Here, an experienced military family lawyer is a must – both to protect your legal rights and those of your children and to help educate the court about the federal requirements that affect your family’s rights. 

Representing You to Your Supervisors, Commanders, CID/CIS/OSI, and the JAG

When you’re facing adverse actions, accusations, suspicions of misconduct, or any other challenging situation, you need an advocate on your side who knows how to navigate the chain of command and communicate effectively. When you choose an attorney with military experience, you gain an ally who can represent you before your supervisors, commanders, the JAG, and CID/CIS/OSI. 

In the military, like in life, the key to success is figuring out who has the power to push the button, and convincing them to push the button. Before a case begins to snowball, and gets picked up by your JAGs eager to add a court-martial win to their record, sometimes a call to the commander is all you need. Even if it’s in the JAGs hands,  jumping straight to the negotiation process and talking lawyer to lawyer can prevent the groupthink of zealous prosecution from spiraling out of control. You need someone who can speak their language, and has your best interests at heart.

Teaming with Your Snohomish Military Family Lawyer

In many adverse actions, military service members are assigned a military lawyer. Your military lawyer probably has extensive experience in the type of case you’re facing or in executing legal defense strategies in general. Yet this lawyer does have many other clients, and likely cannot help you at all with your legal issues in the civilian world. 

For military service members, it’s possible to have the best of both worlds. You can work with the lawyer assigned to you by the military and with an experienced attorney of your own choosing. Together, your chosen lawyer and your assigned lawyer can pool their resources, communicate on key issues, and build the strongest possible case on your behalf.

Every military service member knows that life comes with challenges, from the daily demands of military service to the risks associated with administrative or UCMJ charges to the personal hurdles and demands of home life; including divorce or separation. At every step, your military career or that of your spouse affects the nature of these challenges and shapes the options available for addressing them. 

If you need help, talk to an experienced Snohomish military matters attorney. Attorney Walton Dabney has experience with military matters. The legal team at the Dabney Law Firm is dedicated to helping each of our clients secure a constructive outcome that respects their legal rights and reflects their goals. To learn more, contact the Dabney Law Firm today to schedule a confidential case evaluation.


Dabney Law Firm can help you disregard the default and chart your own path. We help people customize their relationships. Write your own vows, your own rules, your own plan.

Five stars


I count it a blessing that I found you. Win or lose, I feel that you have been the best person...and I’ll be forever grateful.

    - Linda, C.

My same-sex, post-breakup, military-related child custody matter was too complex for the first few lawyers I called. Mr. Dabney took my case, understood exactly what needed to be done and made it happen.

- Cindy C.

My wife is from Korea, and we wanted to customize our relationship without threatening her citizenship status. Walton helped us set up a solid prenup that protected both of us.

-Shane H.

When I got the summons, I was terrified and cried all night. I called Mr. Dabney and he explained everything. He lifted my spirits and got me ready to face the case.

- Desirae B.