How Long Does a Military Divorce Take?

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Military divorce carries the same tediousness as a civilian divorce, but the timeline can be different because divorce for a military couple has different rules. The emotional burden for military families, however, is no less devastating. The waiting period to get to the finalized court order that ends the military divorce process can be just as agonizing.

One thing both military divorce and civilian divorce have in common is that having a divorce attorney in your corner is always wise. If you are considering a military divorce and want more information or help with the divorce proceedings, the experienced divorce lawyers at Melone Hatley, P.C. can help. Reach out to us for legal advice or legal assistance today.

What Is the Difference Between Military and Civilian Divorce?

male miltary member and his wife sitting down facing opposite directions

The biggest difference between military and civilian divorce comes when one or both spouses are military personnel that may be deployed. This makes the process harder and can create delays that can drag out the timeline. Because of this, special laws are in place to protect military members in situations like divorce.

If you need more information about how military divorces differ from civilian divorces, Melone Hatley is here to help. Contact us at 800-479-8124 or fill out our online contact form to speak with a member of our team today.

Special Considerations for Military Divorces

Military divorce cases involve both state and federal laws. The rights of military servicemembers are protected under federal laws, which also deal with situations such as dividing military pensions and retirement payments.

The rights of servicemembers in all of our armed forces — Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, and National Guard — are protected from the consequences of inaction and from court proceedings by the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA). This act protects servicemembers from default judgment in civil cases, and from a non-military spouse obtaining a divorce while being deployed, on active duty, or recently released from active duty. This act allows an extension to file a response to papers in such situations.

State laws apply to things like spousal support, child support, and child custody, and they govern much of the divorce proceedings as with civilian divorce laws. The difference between which aspects of divorce are governed under federal laws and which fall under state family laws can complicate proceedings.

How to File for Military Divorce

female lawyer handing documents to female service member

You initiate a military divorce in the same way as a civilian divorce, including meeting any residency requirements. You must file the initial divorce papers, called a divorce complaint, with state court in a state where either spouse has a legal residence. This can be a military spouse or a non-military spouse. “Legal residence” requires that one of the spouses must have lived in the state for at least six months and have the intent to remain a resident before they have eligibility to file a divorce matter.

What Happens to Military Retirement Benefits During a Divorce?

It is worth noting that the state of legal residence of a military spouse always has the power to divide military pensions, entitlements, and other forms of military retirement pay in a divorce under the USFSPA (Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act). If the military member chooses, they can consent to the state court’s division of pension, but in many cases, the courts may not have the authority under the law. Normally, retirement payments and other monetary entitlements are handled through the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS), which will receive the money and then issue checks.

Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act

The USFSPA, as mentioned above, protects the rights of military members from default judgments. Normally, when a spouse files for divorce, the other spouse must respond to the filing in writing within 21 days. If a military servicemember is on active duty, deployed, or within 90 days of release from active duty, they can file for an extension to respond to divorce papers filed with the courts under this law.

This extension is called a stay of proceedings, and it can apply to any claims related to the divorce, including alimony, child support, child custody, division of military entitlements, and other property division. To gain a stay of proceedings, the military spouse must tender a written request, which your military divorce lawyer can help you to draft.

The initial stay, once granted, lasts for 90 days, but the courts can, with good reason, grant additional stays. A military spouse cannot, however, gain indefinite stays. Such a delay is only granted when the military member’s duties get in the way of their participation in the divorce proceedings.

How Long Does a Military Divorce Take?

A contested military divorce can take anywhere from a few weeks to years to resolve, depending on how complex and contentious the case is. If you are deployed, the proceedings can take longer because you can be granted stays of the proceedings. The amount of time also depends on the grounds for divorce. Some divorces require a period of separation before the divorce can proceed. Others require grounds that can require proof of fault. This is another reason why it is so important to have a family law and military divorce attorney in your corner.

Need Help Ending Your Military Marriage?

man wearing military fatigues filling out paperwork

You may be eager to get the process of divorce over with, but the law provides protection to active duty spouses, which can draw out the process. Every branch of the military offers legal assistance, which is located on most bases. These attorneys can be helpful with things like writing letters, reviewing legal documents, negotiating, and providing legal information. They cannot, however, represent you in your divorce. It is important that you seek representation from a qualified Virginia military divorce attorney.

While seeking aid on a base can be helpful for some basic tasks, having an attorney in your corner who can aggressively represent your interests can be vital to ensuring that you get a fair and equitable split in your divorce. Property division, including payouts for child support and alimony, otherwise known as spousal support, is based on total entitlements — including your Basic Allowance for Subsistence (BAS), Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH), and other military benefits.

Your spouse may have the right to continued health care benefits and even access to your commissary. Once a court order is issued, you may have to return to court and fight to modify it.

Your attorney knows how to fight for your right to an equitable split. They may also be able to point you to assistance you can get from your branch of the military. Understanding the various benefits you get and how your years of marriage and years of service play into the divorce is vital. Your divorce attorney can help guide you through these difficult times.

Clearer Timelines for a Cleaner Divorce

The Virginia military divorce lawyers at Melone Hatley have helped hundreds of military spouses with divorces. Our attorneys understand the process and know what to expect. We can educate you and help advocate for your right to equitable property division, child custody, child support, spousal support, alimony, and other issues.

You are not alone. When you need a friendly ear and knowledgeable guidance, we will be by your side. We can be a clear head during emotional moments, and we can advise you when it is time to fight. We have represented military families across Virginia and North Carolina, and we are ready to fight for you from start to finish. Call our law office today at 800-479-8124 or use our online contact form to speak with one of our client services coordinators.

Rebecca Melone

Written By Rebecca Melone

Rebecca Melone established Melone Hatley P.C. in 2014 with the goal of helping families with a range of legal services from estate and family law to traffic tickets and misdemeanor criminal matters.
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