Military Divorce in Virginia

What makes a military divorce unique?

In any divorce involving military service, parties face unique issues. From jurisdiction to deployment to child custody determinations, these cases have more moving parts than most. As a result, it’s important that any military family facing divorce has the knowledge and insight of an experienced family law attorney.

Jurisdiction Issues in Military Divorces

In order to obtain a divorce in Virginia, at least one spouse needs to have been a resident for more than 6 months prior to filing for divorce. However, this requirement only grants the spouse the right to a divorce, and jurisdiction over child custody and property division may be held by another state. For military members, jurisdiction may be proper where they currently reside, where their spouse currently resides, where they are stationed, or where they last resided in the United States if serving overseas. A knowledgeable family law attorney can advise you on where jurisdiction is proper for your case.

Special Laws Apply to Military Divorces

The Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act (USFSPA) and the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) are the two most impactful federal laws on military divorce. The USFSPA allows former military spouses to receive a portion of retirement pay as well as commissary, exchange, and health care benefits following divorce. The SCRA offers protection for servicemembers from default judgments, evictions, and foreclosures in addition to divorce and custody determinations while on active duty.

As discussed here, Virginia also offers additional protection for servicemembers in the Virginia Military Parents Equal Protection Act, which addresses the concerns of deploying parents regarding custodial and visitation decisions. Jurisdiction over child custody may also be an issue: just because Virginia has jurisdiction over the divorce does not mean it has jurisdiction to make a custody determination. Custody jurisdiction stays in the place where the child has resided most of the time (their “home state”), which may be another state or even another country.

Child Support and Spousal Support

Both child support and spousal support cannot exceed 60% of a military member’s gross pay and allowances. While ordinarily the child support guidelines applied in Virginia will not exceed this limit, it’s possible a spousal support award could. It’s vital that military members understand their rights so they are not burdened with obligations they cannot meet as a result of a divorce.

We know from experience that a successful attorney-client relationship depends on our ability to understand your needs and objectives. For more information about military divorce, contact our office today at 703.995.9900 in Northern Virginia or 757.296.0580 in Virginia Beach, or visit our website:

© Melone Hatley, P.C.