5 Things to Consider About Military Divorce in Virginia
Military families make big sacrifices in service to their country. Long separations, frequent relocations, and the stresses and challenges of active duty take a toll on marriages in the military community. Military divorces have some unique circumstances and laws that distinguish them from civilian divorces. Here are five things for military families to think about before filing for divorce in Virginia.
- Residency Requirements.
Virginia requires one or both spouses to live in Virginia for at least six months (and intend to stay indefinitely) to establish residency before they can file for divorce in the state. The Virginia code makes a specific exception to the “domicile” requirement for military, clarifying that a service member meets the residency requirement as long as he has been stationed in Virginia for at least six months, regardless of his intent to stay in the state.
- Default Judgments.
Federal law protects service members from default judgment in lawsuits when they are on duty and therefore cannot properly respond. In Virginia, a service member must be served in person, and divorce proceedings may be postponed for up to 60 days after active duty has ended. However, if a member of the military is anxious to finalize his divorce, he can waive this waiting period at any time.
- Child custody.
In any child custody case, a judge must decide what custody arrangement is in the best interest of the child. Military cases often involve special circumstances such as long deployments and frequent relocating. In these cases, judges often, but not always, assign full custody to the non-military spouse.
Although the state of Virginia may have jurisdiction over your divorce case, it does not necessarily have jurisdiction in your child custody matter. These cases must be settled in the state or country the child lives in most of the time. If a child primarily lives abroad, child custody must be left up to the courts in the country he lives in, even if he is a U.S. citizen.
- Child support and alimony.
Military spouses often forego education and career opportunities to focus on their families, leaving them jobless or under-employed. For this reason, child and spousal support is a major concern for divorcing military families. However, a soldier’s income may be tricky to calculate, since it could include base pay, housing allowance, hazard pay, bonuses, and non-monetary compensation.
- Marital property.
Virginia is an equitable property state, meaning marital assets are to be distributed fairly between the spouses, but not necessarily 50-50. Federal law includes certain protections for military insurance, retirement, and survivor benefits. The extent to which these benefits can be allocated to ex-spouses depends on the length of the marriage, the length of the service member’s active duty, and the rules for each individual program.
Considering a divorce? Get Legal Help Today.
If you or your spouse is an active duty or retired military member, it is important to hire an experienced family law attorney that understands the unique issues and circumstances surrounding military divorces. The attorneys at Whitbeck Cisneros McElroy PC in Leesburg, Virginia are dedicated to protecting your rights and interests so you can focus on building your new life.