Virginia Beach Military Divorce

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Military Divorce Attorneys in Virginia Beach

In a 2013 study by the Rand Corporation, researchers found a direct correlation between the length of deployment and divorce rates for military service members, with 97 percent of those divorces occurring after a return from deployment. Divorce is hard enough on everyone involved, from the division of marital property to child custody issues and beyond. Still, it becomes even more complicated if one or both spouses are military members or in the reserves.

In addition to state family laws, federal laws exist that are designed to protect members of military families; both service members and their military spouses. These laws and regulations can complicate the divorce process and drag out divorce proceedings that can already be long and painful. The military divorce attorneys at Melone Hatley, P.C. have represented military divorce cases across Virginia Beach and Chesapeake. Call us today to learn how we can help you navigate your military divorce case.

Does Being Stationed in Virginia Beach Count as Virginia Residency?

military couple arguing

Virginia state law requires residency to file for divorce. Reserve and active duty military members are considered Virginia residents if they are stationed at a Virginia military base, including Virginia Beach, for at least six months before filing for divorce. If you meet this qualification, you can file for divorce in Virginia.

Does the Military Provide Me With a Lawyer?

The military does have legal assistance attorneys through JAG who can answer questions, offer basic legal advice, and file legal documents for service members and military spouses. However, they cannot represent you in state court. If you are facing a divorce with military issues, it is always recommended that you seek representation from a private law firm familiar with family law matters and the specifics of military divorce.

If you are getting divorced as a member of the air force, army, marines, navy, or any military branch in Virginia Beach, the law office of Melone Hatley can help. We are well-versed in the legal issues surrounding military divorce and understand the nuances that you will face. Call us at 757-296-0580 or use our online contact form to speak with a member of our team today.

How Does Deployment Affect Divorce in Virginia Beach?

Divorce papers can be served to a deployed service member, but laws are in place to protect against accusations that you failed to respond. The Servicemembers’ Civil Relief Act allows deployed members of the military to extend the deadline to respond to divorce papers and effectively put their divorce on hold while they are deployed and unable to respond.

However, it is still recommended that you have a lawyer stateside look over the papers and advise you during this time. Divorce brings some serious legal matters, and understanding these issues early can go a long way toward protecting your rights.

How Are Military Retirement and Benefits Divided in a Divorce?

Your non-military spouse may keep their military ID and their commissary and exchange privileges as well as their health care benefits throughout the divorce proceedings until the divorce is finalized. As with all states, when going through divorce as a military member, the courts of Virginia must follow all federal regulations regarding military retirement and benefits. However, your attorney must also be well-versed in military matters so that the state courts do not overstep their bounds.


If living in military housing, the non-military spouse is normally required to move out within 30 days of the military spouse moving out due to divorce. This means that if you, as a service member, move out of your military housing due to the beginning of divorce proceedings, your spouse is also required to move out within 30 days in most cases.


Options are in place for non-military spouses to retain health care benefits after a divorce. When non-military spouses lose their TRICARE benefits from divorce, they can purchase up to 36 months of TRICARE coverage from the Department of Defense Continued Health Care Benefit program.

Spousal and Child Support

military member holding hands with his son

Child and spousal support are handled differently by each branch of the military when it comes to temporary spousal and child support. Your Virginia Beach military divorce attorney can review these options with you. Child custody, support, and guardianship are often difficult parts of every divorce, and being a military member can make them even more stressful.
When a military member is going through a divorce, they must deal not only with state-level regulations but also the regulations of their branch. One specific example is that all branches require military members to contribute a portion of their income when they separate. This amount is generally higher than what the state courts require, so it is essential to hurry up and get a temporary support order in place that can be used to satisfy the support requirements of the particular branch.

Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act (USFSPA)

The USFSPA is in place to protect the needs of former spouses of military members. This act provides a limited range of benefits for un-remarried ex-spouses, dependent upon the number of years the couple was married during the period of active service.

The USFSPA allows former spouses to receive part of retirement pay directly under specific circumstances, grants some spouses access to health care, exchange, and commissaries at military facilities, and grants benefits to some victims of abuse.

Retirement Benefits

Retirement pay and benefits, from military pensions to insurance, are considered marital property and subject to equitable property division under the law. Non-military spouses may be entitled to a portion of this pension. The USFSPA allows state courts to divide disposable retirement pay between the service member and their spouse. The USFPA does not require courts to divide retirement pay, award any predetermined share of retirement pay, place any ceilings on awards, or require any overlap of military service and marriage for retirement pay to be counted as marital property.

Unmarried former non-military spouses may also be eligible for survivor benefits under the military’s survivor benefit plan should they die during your service. As with many divorce benefits, your former spouse may lose this eligibility if they remarry.

Finally, exceptions exist regarding jurisdiction under the USFPA. Courts cannot treat retirement pay as marital property unless the courts have jurisdiction over the service member. This can be based on place of residence other than because of military assignment (deployment), the military member’s domicile, or consent to the court’s jurisdiction. These exceptions can be complicated, and your Virginia Beach military divorce attorney can help you to understand if they apply to you.

How Can a Military Divorce Lawyer Help Me?

military member taking off his ring

A military divorce lawyer is vital to protecting your rights in your military divorce. They understand the complications of military divorce proceedings, including how benefits get divided, how spousal and child support are determined, and the unique issues with child custody and deployment. Military divorce lawyers understand how grounds for divorce work and how to respond when papers are served.

Even though you are an active duty military member who is deployed, this does not disqualify you from gaining primary custody of your child. You may, however, need to fight for child custody, and a military divorce attorney can help you make that fight. Your attorney will help protect your rights regarding an equitable division of property. They will work to protect the retirement benefits you have earned and treat you with respect for the service you have tendered to our country.

Military divorce is complex and can be even more painful than a civilian divorce. Going it alone is generally not a good idea. Contact a military divorce lawyer for help so the process remains fair.

We Fight for Your Benefit

Melone Hatley has decades of experience representing military service members in Virginia across the entire Hampton Roads region, including Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Hampton, Newport News, Suffolk, and Portsmouth. We deeply value our relationship with each client we represent, and we have a wealth of testimonials from satisfied clients.

We are a top-rated family law firm in Virginia Beach, ready to protect your rights. We are here to protect your family, finances, and future. Give us a call today at 757-296-0580 or contact us online to speak with a member of our client services team and learn how we can help.

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