Every marriage has its unique joys and challenges. If you serve in the military or are married to a servicemember, you face additional trials other couples may not understand. The stress of long deployments, frequent moves to new assignments and the pressure of military duties can be difficult to handle.
Whether these issues or your personal differences have led you to the decision to divorce, you should know that you will be dealing with some special complications related to your status as a servicemember or spouse. You may find it helpful to have legal assistance from someone who has experience with military divorce.
Where do you file?
The military does not deal with most matters of your divorce. Dissolving your marriage is still a matter governed by the state in which you reside. However, this may be the first complication that your military life presents. If you are looking to file for divorce as the spouse of a servicemember, you must first understand the minimum residency requirements of the state in which you live, and in which state the law considers your residence.
While a servicemember stationed in various states retains legal residency in his or her home state, spouses of servicemembers change residency as they move. Many states, including Virginia, require you to reside there for a certain period of time before you can file for divorce in that jurisdiction.
What about military retirement?
Perhaps one of the most complex issues of a military divorce is how to divide the servicemember’s retirement pay. While it is true that the servicemember earned that money through difficult sacrifices, it is also true that military spouses make their own sacrifices to support the careers of their partners. This may include giving up careers and leaving family behind to move from state to state.
Congress passed the Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act to allow states to include the division of military retirement with any joint assets subject to property division during divorce. The government established clear guidelines for distributing a portion of that retirement fund to a civilian ex-spouse, including the number of years you were married and the length of the servicemember’s service.
You do not have to handle this alone
You likely have many questions about the formulas and restrictions related to these and other issues, including custody and support matters. This is why it is critical to have experienced legal assistance. Making a mistake during a military divorce may result in costly decisions you may have to live with indefinitely. It is wise to take every precaution to avoid this possibility.