Military Legal Resources Available to You
When legal issues arise, service members and their families have a number of resources at their fingertips, much of it free. Legal assistance is available whether you need an expert to review a contract, help with estate planning, finalize deployment-related legal documents, or 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 help in many situations where you may need legal advice or help completing legal documents. Active and retired service members and family members are eligible for free legal assistance advice - but not representation in court - on a range of matters, including:
- Drafting powers of attorney
- Drafting wills
- Estate planning
- Family law (such as adoption, marriage, divorce, alimony and property division)
- Contracts and lease review
- Notary services
- Consumer advice (ranging from debt management and credit reporting to ID theft)
- Tax help
- Immigration and naturalization issues
- Civil lawsuits
- Service member rights and responsibilities
- Misdemeanors and minor traffic offenses
The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act provides service members 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 in translating a lease during an overseas move, a birth certificate, a marriage license and other documents. 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 do offer the Expanded Legal Assistance Program, which allows for in-court representation in limited cases.) See below for help on 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 non-military 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 representation or reduced fee representation. If not, ask about private civilian legal representation available in your community.
Seeking military defense counsel: Military defense counsel are legal offices separate from your local legal assistance office, and available to you 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 counsel 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, administrative separation proceedings, 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 — Does not have a centralized website
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.