Getting a divorce is a complex and emotional process, but certain complications come with a military divorce. Military divorces have to follow certain rules under both federal and state laws, and the servicemember’s benefits are often a key source of contention. In addition to these issues, there are all the other typical challenges that come with a divorce: Dividing up marital assets, settling custody matters for young children, and determining spousal support.
Given the challenging nature of military divorces, it’s crucial to get help from a divorce lawyer who understands the relevant laws and has experience with these cases. As a Virginia family law and divorce attorney, Mike Deering and his team possess the knowledge and skill to handle your military divorce. With more than a decade of experience, Mike can support you through every step of this trying process. Contact our office today for more information on how we can help in a Virginia military divorce case.
The Basics of Military Divorce in Virginia
Military divorces in Virginia are based on both federal and state laws, but there are a few key particulars to be aware of:
- The divorce must be filed in the state where the servicemember’s home is registered — Military families move around a lot, but under the Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act (USFSPA), a military divorce must be filed in the state where the servicemember lives. Furthermore, the servicemember’s spouse must also have lived in the same state for at least six months. If you and your spouse have not been stationed in Virginia for at least six months, you cannot file for divorce here.
- There are still specific state laws that apply — While the USFSPA determines certain issues in military divorce, the law also says that state laws apply when it comes to dividing assets and other issues. Consequently, you must meet one of the five recognized grounds for divorce in Virginia before you can file. Those grounds are: Adultery outside of marriage within the past five years, your spouse having been convicted of a felony within the past year, desertion and cruelty by your spouse within the past year, one year of separation if you have children under age 18, or six months of separation if you have no children or your children are older than 18.
- The rules around dividing military pensions and other benefits are complicated — The USFSPA says state laws generally apply when it comes to dividing a servicemember’s “disposable retired pay,” which is their gross income minus their disability pay, Survivor’s Benefit Plan premiums, and a few other deductions. Therefore, most of a servicemember’s retirement benefits, including their pension, are subject to Virginia law regarding the division of marital property. How much of your spouse’s military benefits you may be entitled to depends on the length of your marriage, how much of that time was during the servicemember’s credited service time, and other factors. Additionally, how much of your spouse’s retirement pay you may receive is generally based on their rank when the final divorce order is handed down, not their rank when they retire from service.
Get Help from a Virginia Military Divorce Lawyer Today
With the additional complications of a military divorce in Virginia, you need guidance from an experienced attorney. Without help from a lawyer who understands military divorce procedure, you may have a tough time recovering your fair share of your marital property and your spouse’s military benefits. Hiring a military divorce lawyer also makes it more likely that you will be able to reach a satisfactory custody agreement with your spouse.
We know how challenging a military divorce can be, so let us take some of the stress and concern off your shoulders. Contact Mike Deering today to learn more about how our Virginia divorce lawyer can help you.