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Virginia Beach Military Divorce Attorneys

Customized Legal Counsel for Service Members

A military divorce must be treated differently than a civilian divorce. If you are a service member or married to someone who is, then you must adhere to specific rules and regulations that apply to your situation.

How Is a Military Divorce Different from a Civilian Divorce?

To proceed with a military divorce, you will want to hire a lawyer who not only understands military law, but also how state and federal law impact service members.

The main differences between a military divorce and a civilian divorce involve how local state laws, federal laws, and specific parts of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) will affect the case. Here are the factors that set a military divorce apart from a civilian divorce:

Territorial Jurisdiction

Virginia state courts will need jurisdiction, or the right to use an official power to make legal decisions, to grant a divorce. There are three main types of judicial jurisdiction: personal, territorial, and subject matter. A service member might have a hard time proving territorial jurisdiction, or the place where the marital events occurred. For a civilian, territorial jurisdiction would be where that individual resides. For a service member, this could vary as he/she might hold a residence but be stationed in another state or country.

Residency Requirements

The residency requirements needed for the court to grant a civilian divorce are defined as:

  • the county or city in which the couple last cohabited
  • the county or city in which the defendant resides (if agreed upon by the plaintiff)
  • the county or city in which the plaintiff resides (special considerations are required)

Additionally, a spouse must have been a resident of the state for a least six months.

Military divorces cannot typically fulfill this requirement, as a service member might be stationed elsewhere for extended periods of time. Due to this factor, Virginia has adjusted this requirement to accommodate a military service member and his/her family. A member of the military stationed in Virginia for at least six months – living on a ship with a Virginia home port also counts – is considered enough time to fulfill the state’s residency requirement.

Military Divorce Filing Requirements

Service members and their spouses have three divorce filing options:

  • The state where the filing spouse resides
  • The state where the service member is stationed
  • The state where the service member resides

Virginia law protects members of the military from a default divorce. The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) consists of two sections to determine a stay of proceedings for a civil case that involves a service member. These sections detail facts such as what to do if you are served divorce papers while deployed or on active duty and cannot be located or contacted.

If a service member is unable to get notice of a divorce proceeding, he/she can refer to the rules outlined in 50 U.S. Code § 3931 – Protection of servicemembers against default judgment.

In the event the service member does receive notice, but he/she is deployed and cannot respond, the following rules outlined in 50 U.S. Code § 3932 – Stay of proceedings when servicemember has notice will protect him/her.

Under SCRA, service members can place a temporary stay on any civil action against them if the orders are placed while they are on active duty or within 90 days after they are discharged or released from their service.

Military Pensions and Benefits

The 10/10 Rule

The Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) pays a military spouse his/her share of military retirement benefits if the marriage lasted at least ten years while the service member was on active military duty. This is known as the 10/10 rule.

Additional Spousal Benefits

In addition to retirement benefits, military spouses are eligible for their share of a military pension, full medical benefits, commissary perks, and other privileges if:

  • The marriage lasted at least 20 years
  • The service member finished at least 20 years of serviceand
  • 20 years of marriage took place while the military service was performed

Consult with an Experienced Military Divorce Attorney
As there are many factors involved in a military divorce that differ from a civilian divorce, it is imperative you hire a professional lawyer with experience. We can help you understand how the law applies to your case and protect your rights.

Contact our firm online or give us a call at (757) 517-2942 to discuss your military divorce options.