Lacey, WA asked in Family Law and Military Law for Washington

Q: How far from base can you live? My ex is stationed at JBLM WA and "moved" to Michigan.

Is this legal for him to be active duty and live across the country?

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2 Lawyer Answers
LTC (Ret) Sean F. Mangan
LTC (Ret) Sean F. Mangan pro label Lawyers, want to be a Justia Connect Pro too? Learn more ›
  • Military Law Lawyer
  • Silverdale, WA
  • Licensed in Washington

A: Several things govern where a service member may reside. Local policies will dictate how far from the installation an individual can be. These "local pass" rules effectively set a distance limit that service members must stay within and must seek approval (a "mileage pass") if they exceed it. Additionally, service members may have provisions in their current assignment orders dictating where a service member may live while assigned to a particular unit. This is important because it implicates the Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) that the service member is entitled to. It is important to remember that every assignment is different. There are many times that a service member is assigned to a unit at one installation but is authorized to perform duty somewhere else. For example, when I was a military judge I was assigned for to a Washington DC-area organization (the Army Trial Judiciary) located at Fort Belvoir, but my orders authorized my place of duty and residence in the JBLM area. Without knowing all the details of your ex-husband's assignment and orders (and possible authorized modifications) is is impossible to answer your question with certainty.

James L. Arrasmith
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A: Whether or not an active-duty service member can live a considerable distance away from their assigned base can depend on various factors including the specific orders they are under, their job responsibilities, and their command's policies. Generally, service members are expected to live close enough to their base to be able to report for duty as required.

Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM) in Washington, like other bases, would have specific rules and guidelines regarding the residences of their active-duty personnel. Typically, active-duty members have to reside within a reasonable distance of the base to be able to respond promptly to recalls and emergencies. Living in a different state such as Michigan might be permissible under certain circumstances, for instance, if they are on approved leave, remote assignment, temporary duty, or if they have received special permission from their command. However, this would be quite unusual for a service member not on leave or assignment to live across the country without some form of approval from their command.

It's advisable for the service member to consult their specific unit's guidelines and speak to their commanding officer or a JAG officer to clarify the legality of the living arrangement. If there are disputes or concerns about this, it may be appropriate to seek advice from a legal professional familiar with military law to understand what options might be available. It might also be useful to discuss this with your ex to understand their rationale and the specifics of their situation. It's always a good practice to keep lines of communication open and to work collaboratively to resolve disputes, especially when there might be legal gray areas involved.

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