Your marriage can end for any number of reasons. However, when one spouse is in the military, there is a higher probability of divorce, and deployment increases that likelihood. Tensions can and almost always do run high with a divorce. You likely go through many different distracting emotions that take your attention away from the important matters at hand.
Want to prepare yourself to get what you can from the divorce process? The experienced Virginia military divorce attorneys at Melone Hatley, P.C. law office are ready to assist you with legal advice, legal counsel, and representation throughout your divorce case.
Virginia requires a six-month separation period during which divorcing spouses must live apart and not cohabitate or engage in any sort of marital relations. If the military member is on active duty overseas, the time spent on deployment outside the country may count towards this separation period.
If one or both spouses are military members, you will want a divorce lawyer with practice areas covering the military justice system as well as family law. One of the biggest differences between civilian divorce cases and military divorce is that a deployed spouse can request a stay to delay the start of divorce proceedings.
A military divorce also must consider how military benefits are split as marital property in addition to dealing with matters like child custody, child support, alimony and spousal support, retirement benefits, and other property division issues.
In some cases, a spouse may be able to access military records, but there are legal issues regarding such efforts, and it is not easy. A court order is required to gain in-depth access to military records. Your military divorce and family law attorney may be able to protect your rights against a military spouse looking to use your military records against you.
If you need assistance dealing with these sorts of military family law matters, the law firm of Melone Hatley, P.C. may be able to help. We can represent clients across Virginia, including Loudoun County. Whether you are in Southern, Central, or Northern Virginia, we have years of experience in military divorce cases and are ready to listen to you. Call us at 703-995-9900 or use our online contact form to speak with a member of our team today.
Much as with any divorce, how assets are divided depends on which are marital property and which are separate property. Under the Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act (USFSPA), half of military servicemembers’ retirement pay becomes marital property. This means that the spouse is entitled to half of the servicemember’s retirement pay that is earned during the course of the marriage.
In addition, military divorce courts have rules like the 20/20/20 rule and the 20/20/15 rule. The 20/20/20 rule means that a spouse must be married to a military member for a minimum of 20 years, the military member must have completed a minimum of 20 years of service toward retirement, and at least 20 years of the marriage must overlap 20 years of active service. Only if all three of these factors are met can the military spouse get full benefits.
The 20/20/15 rule, on the other hand, relates to the medical benefits of military members. The first two benchmarks are the same as the 20/20/20 test, but only 15 years of marriage must be during military service. If these benchmarks are met, the spouse is entitled to permanent medical benefits if the divorce decree was finalized before April 1, 1985.
When it comes to spousal support and child support, the courts place caps on how much can be taken. No more than 65 percent of military retirement benefits can be garnished for child support or alimony purposes. This is outlined in Virginia Code Section 20-107.3, part of Virginia divorce law.
Your Survivor Benefit Plan is an important part of your estate planning. It allows for only a single beneficiary. This means that you must change your spouse’s coverage if you wish to name a different beneficiary on the Survivor Benefit Plan. Otherwise, your former spouse will remain a beneficiary. The benefits will be suspended if your surviving former spouse remarries before they turn 55. However, the benefits will resume if that marriage ends in death, divorce, or annulment.
If you remarry, you may change your coverage. If your former spouse’s election resulted from a court order, a new court order is required to permit the change. If the former election was to comply with a divorce or separation agreement with no court order, the former spouse must agree. Finally, if the former spouse was voluntarily elected, you may make the change at your desire.
After a military divorce, you will no longer receive a housing allowance if you are not the servicemember. When you have no dependents, the former military spouse loses all access to Basic Allowance for Housing benefits, as they are no longer a dependent of the service member and are no longer eligible to live in military housing.
Child custody issues are not much different in a military divorce than in a civilian one. That is to say, the courts always consider what is in the best interest of the child when making these decisions. These cases are more complicated because temporary duty assignment (TDY) schedules, deployments, overseas assignments, permanent changes of station (PCS), and other travel-related factors can significantly impact the decision. You can still get custody of your children when deployed, but it may require help from an experienced military divorce lawyer.
The Uniform Deployed Parents Custody and Visitation Act (UDPCVA) is in place to protect the rights of military parents during a divorce. The UDPCVA states that military deployments cannot be used as the sole determining factor in child custody decisions, among other protections. This act allows states to set procedures for courts in their jurisdictions to follow when dealing with deployments and relocations. Almost every state has such a provision in place. Virginia’s provision is very similar to that set out in the UDPCVA, and is laid out in Virginia Code Section 20-124.7.
At Melone Hatley, P.C., we deeply value the relationships we build with our clients. We pride ourselves on helping to ease the burden of your divorce and fighting to help you get a fair and equitable settlement in your military divorce.
Divorce is a devastating and stressful process. Let us be the compassionate ally you need to help get you through and protect you and your whole family. Call our Loudoun County office today at 703-995-9900 or use our online contact form to speak with a client services coordinator.
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