When legal issues arise, service members and their families have a number of free resources at the ready. Legal assistance is available whether you need an expert to review a contract or help with estate planning. If you need to finalize deployment-related legal documents, legal assistance can help. You can also get advice on mediation for child custody. Here are some of your options.
Free legal help from the legal assistance office
Your installation’s legal assistance office can serve you in many situations where you may need legal advice. They may also help in completing legal documents. Representation in court is not available for service members or family members. However, active and retired service members and family members are eligible for free legal assistance, including:
- Drafting powers of attorney
- Drafting wills
- Guiding estate planning
- Providing family law advice (in areas such as adoption, marriage, divorce, alimony and property division)
- Reviewing contracts and leases
- Providing notary services
- Offering consumer advice (ranging from debt management and credit reporting to ID theft)
- Helping with taxes
- Assisting in immigration and naturalization issues
- Advising in civil lawsuits
- Protecting service member rights and responsibilities
- Advising clients on misdemeanors and minor traffic offenses
The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act offers help with a range of rights and benefits, from interest rate reductions to eviction protection. Know your rights and available perks.
For document translation services, contact Military OneSource Specialty Consultations. You can get help translating a lease during an overseas move, or with documents such as a birth certificate or marriage license. Call a Military OneSource consultant at 800-342-9647 for document translation or legal matters.
Where legal assistance offices cannot help
There are other issues where legal assistance offices won’t be able to assist. They include:
- Providing legal advice to third parties or opposing parties on the same issue
- Claims against the government and serious criminal matters
- Legal matters concerning your privately owned business
- In-court representation (although legal assistance attorneys generally do not represent clients in court, some service branches offer the Expanded Legal Assistance Program, which allows for in-court representation in limited cases). See below for help finding a private civilian lawyer.
Use the Armed Forces Legal Assistance Locator to find the nearest legal assistance office.
Help with other legal matters: private lawyers, military defense counsel
For criminal matters or other issues not available through your installation’s legal assistance office, you’ll most likely want to consider a private civilian attorney. If you’re facing discharge or criminal prosecution by the military, you can seek assistance from military defense counsel.
Seeking nonmilitary counsel: Services provided within a legal assistance office are free. You may also need to pay for private civilian counsel. If so, ask your legal assistance attorney if your case qualifies for pro bono or reduced fee representation. If not, ask about private civilian legal representation available in your community.
Seeking military defense counsel: Military defense counsels are legal offices separate from your local legal assistance office, and are available if you are facing prosecution by the military. As a service member, you have the right to be represented at your court-martial.
Military defense counsels are certified judge advocates who provide independent legal representation and confidential legal advice for service members suspected of an offense or facing adverse administrative actions.
Military defense counsel can help you in many situations, including pretrial investigations, investigations, and administrative separation proceedings. They can also help with letters of reprimand, denial or revocation of a security clearance, and court-martial proceedings.
Each of the service branches has a different name for the defense counsel offices:
- Army — United States Army Trial Defense Service
- Marine Corps and Navy — The Defense Service Office
- Air Force — Contact your local Area Defense Counsel office
Find the contact information for your nearest defense counsel in your installation telephone directory. Your installation trial defense service office, defense services office or area defense counsel office may have a local website with helpful information.
The information contained on this website is designed to educate and inform service members and their families on their personal legal affairs. Nothing contained in the website is a substitute for the competent legal advice of a licensed attorney. Service members and their families seeking legal advice should consult the staff of the nearest installation Legal Assistance Office.