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Sailor Allowed to Marry While Stationed Overseas with Pro Bono Attorney Help

March 25, 2016

A Navy servicemember stationed in Europe wanted to marry but was prevented from doing so without a certified copy of her birth certificate. The sailor was unable to retrieve the certificate from the state because she discovered that when she had been a ward of the state as a child, her biological mother had changed her name on her birth certificate without notifying her. The servicemember, therefore, needed legal assistance to obtain her original birth certificate in order to proceed with her marriage and was referred to the ABA Military Pro Bono Project by her military attorney. Within days, the Project matched the sailor with an experienced pro bono attorney who was able to contact the state vital records office in the place where the servicemember was born and started a proceeding for a name change order.  Initially, the court rejected the application because the sailor was stationed overseas and, therefore, no longer resided in that state. In response, the servicemember’s attorney submitted a memorandum of law showing that the law prohibited discrimination against an active service member on this basis. Ultimately, the attorney was successful in persuading the court to issue a name change order and arranged for entry and submission of the order to the state. As a result, due to the dedication of her volunteer attorney over the course of a year, an amended birth certificate was issued to the servicemember, finally allowing her to marry.

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