For people under thirty, the military consistently ranks as one of the top ten jobs with the highest divorce rate. Military families face additional challenges beyond the usual family law disputes in a divorce case. Deployment can delay a military divorce case, navigating benefits and dividing a military pension can be tricky legal matters. If you need assistance with a military divorce in the Chesapeake, Virginia area, our attorneys at Melone Hatley, P.C. are available to help. Call our office located in Chesapeake at 757-296-0580 to schedule an appointment, or visit our website and ask a question with the online contact form.
In order to file for a divorce in Virginia, one or both spouses must have lived in this state for at least six months. Being stationed at a military base in Virginia meets this residency requirement. As long as you or your spouse have been stationed in Virginia for six months or longer, you can file for divorce in Virginia.
Deployment does not prevent a divorce proceeding from happening, but it can delay it. If you are a non-military spouse, you can file for divorce and have your service member spouse served with the papers while they are away on deployment. However, they have a right to pause the case until their deployment ends. The Service members’ Civil Relief Act (SCRA) is a federal law that protects service members from having court judgments entered against them while they are unavailable due to deployment. If the military spouse wants to move the divorce forward, they can participate remotely.
A non-military spouse may continue to receive many of the military benefits they received during the marriage while the divorce case is pending. They may be able to keep some benefits after the divorce, depending on factors like the length of the marriage.
All non-military spouses can keep their military ID and continue to use commissaries and exchanges until the divorce proceedings are complete and the divorce is final. If they satisfy the 20/20/20 rule, they may continue receiving many benefits after the divorce. The 20/20/20 rule has three parts:
If you meet all three criteria as an ex-spouse, you will maintain access to military benefits for the rest of your life.
If a non-military spouse is living in military housing when their divorce case begins, they typically may continue to live there for a maximum of 30 days after their military spouse moves out.
As soon as a divorce is complete, a non-military spouse will lose their TRICARE health benefits, with three exceptions:
Virginia state law governs most aspects of the divorce process for military families, including spousal support and child support. In military divorces, questions may arise about how payments get to the recipient, especially while the divorce case is ongoing. Each military branch has distinct policies regarding temporary spousal and child support. Speak to a military divorce attorney who can review these policies with you.
The Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act (USFSPA) provides a limited range of benefits for un-remarried ex-spouses. Which benefits a former spouse may receive depends on the marriage’s length and the marriage’s overlap with active duty service. The 20/20/20 rule discussed above is an example of eligibility for benefits under the USFSPA.
Military pensions are considered a form of marital property that courts may divide between spouses in a divorce. This only applies to a service member’s disposable retired pay. Other benefits, such as disability benefits from the DOD or VA, are not included.
The amount of military retirement pay that a court may consider marital property depends on the state property division laws. In Virginia, the amount of military retirement pay that the service member spouse accrued during the marriage is deemed to be marital property. A court must make an equitable distribution of that portion.
Federal law determines how someone may receive their share of a service member’s retirement pay. The Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS), an office of the DOD, will only make payments directly to the former spouse in limited situations.
The DFAS is responsible for sending retirement payments to former service members. It can split those payments between former spouses based on divorce decrees from state courts. Still, it has two significant limitations:
If a person is entitled to a portion of their former spouse’s retirement pay but falls under one or both of the above scenarios, the former spouse is responsible for sending them their share of each payment.
A Virginia military divorce lawyer understands the specific requirements of a military divorce. This includes retaining military benefits, dividing military pensions, and communicating with offices like the DFAS. They can advise you on each military branch’s spousal and child support requirements and guide you on retaining child custody rights if you are deployed.
In a military divorce case, you will likely face legal issues that do not usually appear in civilian cases. Many issues involve complex regulations and procedures, such as dividing military retirement pay. Members of the military and non-military spouses need legal counsel that covers both divorce law and military law. The Virginia military divorce attorneys at Melone Hatley are here to assist clients in Chesapeake and throughout the Hampton Roads area. Our Chesapeake law firm offers free eBooks and advice videos to help you understand your rights and options. Schedule an appointment by calling us at 757-296-0580 or filling out our online contact form.
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