Contrary to popular belief, military members and dependents are not entitled to a full range of legal services at the JAG Office on a military installation. The rumor mill surrounding free legal service from the JAG Office includes divorce representation, representation in civil cases and even assistance getting out of a traffic ticket. However, the JAG office on base/post works for the unit/command, and members and dependents who go there looking for free representation in their civilian legal matters are going to be disappointed.
The mission of the Legal Office on base/post is solely dedicated to command legal issues. Military attorneys on base/post provide contract reviews and legal reviews, prosecute military members who have violated military law, and advise military commanders on military legal matters. Military attorneys can provide limited legal assistance to military members and very little in the way of legal assistance to dependents of authorized military members. The type and amount of legal assistance provided by the JAG Office depends on mission requirements and the type of legal assistance needed.
Services the Military JAG Office CAN Provide to Members and Dependents
If time permits, the JAG Office on base or post can provide a limited number of legal services to qualified military personnel. Powers of Attorney, as well as wills, are provided to military members (and sometimes dependents, when the workload of the office is slow). Military members are required to have a will on file to ensure personal mission readiness, and as a result, ensure the overall unit readiness for combat. JAG Office staff may notarize documents. Military legal officers may provide some legal advice to military members on a variety of topics, to include adoption, divorce, separation and marriage. JAG attorneys, paralegals and support staff also have a list of resources in the local civilian community that they can provide to military members who need to retain the services of civilian attorneys who are equipped to assist them with civilian legal issues. In the case of a military member who is charged with a violation of military law, the member is entitled to free representation by a special military defense attorney called the ADC, or Area Defense Counsel. This attorney is a neutral third-party, usually located at another military installation, and is be assigned to represent them in military legal channels.
Services the Military JAG Office CANNOT Provide to Members and Dependents
JAG officers are absolutely not authorized to assist a military member with, or represent them with any matters related to a divorce or separation, nor can the JAG Office assist a military spouse with divorce proceedings. Many times, a dependent spouse is advised to get to the JAG Office and secure a free military attorney before their military spouse does, since the JAG Office can only represent one spouse or the other. This is completely false. A military attorney cannot represent the member or dependent in court, or assist with any divorce-related representation; the JAG Office will provide a referral to a civilian divorce attorney. JAG officers are prohibited from representing military personnel or family members in any proceeding that is handled in a civilian court. Military attorneys cannot assist with traffic tickets or related issues; these issues should be referred to a qualified civilian attorney. Military JAGs can provide names of local civilian attorneys that can assist the member and dependents with these and other related civilian legal issues.