Military Search: Where to Begin
If you are starting a family law case (such as a divorce or setting parental rights and responsibilities), you must tell the other party that you are bringing a court action against them. You do this by "serving" the other party. This means that you give copies of your court papers to the other party. Court rules tell you how this must be done.
This information will help you serve the other party if you cannot find them and if there is a chance that they may be serving in the military. This information should be used along with the Maine court's Instructions for Service by Alternate Means.
Step One: Get the court's Instructions for Service by Alternate Means. Follow all the steps listed there, filling out all the required forms.
Step Two: Complete these three additional forms:
- Petition and Order For Military Certification
- Cover letter to the Department of Defense Manpower Data Center, requesting the information stated in the court's Order
- Social Security Number Disclosure Form
Instructions for Filling out Forms
At the top of each form are blank spaces. You can fill them out by copying from the original complaint, or any court forms that have been filed in your case. If you are starting a new court case, you are the plaintiff and the other party is the defendant.
If you are filing a post-judgment motion (a judge has already made a decision in your case) and you were the defendant in the original case, you are still the defendant. Again, copy the caption as it appears on the original complaint and judgment. Later, as you go through the text of the forms, you will have to change them. Except for the opening caption, each time the form says "plaintiff," substitute the word "defendant." Each time the form says "defendant," substitute the word "plaintiff."
The Petition and Order for Military Certification. If you were married to the other party, fill in the first paragraph with your name, and the town and county where you live. Then fill in the rest of the blanks with the name of your spouse and the town, county, and state where you were married and the year you were married.
If you were not married, revise the form so that the first paragraph reads as follows: RESPECTFULLY REPRESENTS [your name, followed by your town, county and state] that they have minor child(ren) with [name of the other party] born in [list the years when your children were born].
The rest of the form should be the same whether you were married to the other party or not.
In the second paragraph, fill in the name of the other party and his or her date of birth and service number. If you don't know all of this, fill in what you know and leave the rest blank. Next, give a physical description of the other party.
Finally, sign your name and fill in your mailing address. The judge will fill in the blank spaces at the end.
Cover Letter. The cover letter must be typed or neatly written so that it is easy to read. If it is not, it will be returned to you with your request unanswered. Include as much information as you can about the person you are trying to find. The person's full name, social security number and birth date are best. The name and the social security number or the name and the birth date will work. If the person you are looking for has a common name, and you don't have at least a social security number or birth date, there is a good chance that the search cannot be completed. Also include your full name and telephone number where you can be reached.
Be sure to include all of this information:
The full name of the person you are looking for
Their social security number or birth date, if you know
The last known address of the person you are looking for
The name of the judge who signed your order
The location of the court where your case will be heard
Your full name and telephone number.
Step Three: Give or mail your completed Petition and Order for Military Certification form to the court clerk. Ask that the judge review and sign it.
Step Four: Send one copy of your signed Order for a Military Certification, along with your cover letter, to the Department of Defense. Include a self-addressed, stamped envelope with the letter.
Step Five: You will get a certificate from the Department of Defense stating whether the other party is enlisted. It can take several months to hear back. If a long time has passed, call the Manpower Data Center (703-696-5844) or ask your U.S. Senator or Representative to look into the delay.
If the other party is enlisted, ask for Pine Tree's information entitled Service on Someone in the Military in Family Law Matters. Follow the instructions in that information.
If the other party is not enlisted, file copies of everything you received from the Department of Defense with the court clerk's office.
Remember: You must file this information with the court before your hearing date. If you haven't gotten the information back before that date, ask the court to reschedule your hearing.
PTLA # 328