skip to Main Content

How Active Duty Could Affect Spouses in a Military Divorce

How Active Duty Could Affect Spouses In A Military Divorce

Divorce is emotional and stressful for anyone. However, it can be more challenging when one or both spouses are in the military on active duty. The complex process requires knowledge of the laws and legal procedures.

You shouldn’t proceed with your military divorce unless you retain an experienced divorce lawyer. Attempting to pursue the matter without representation can delay the process and lead to unintended consequences. 

Understanding Residency Requirements

In Virginia, divorcing spouses must meet the residency requirement. Typically, one spouse must reside in the state for at least six months before filing the divorce petition.

If the military spouse is the party who files for divorce, they must have their station in Virginia for at least six months before divorce proceedings begin. They don’t have to continue living there after the required period.

However, military members often relocate to a base in a different territory or country. The residency requirement is fulfilled if the military member was stationed in Virginia for the six months immediately prior to their deployment to the different location.

Protection Against Default Judgments

Since active-duty members can encounter issues receiving and responding to mail, federal laws protect servicemembers from default judgments in divorce cases. That means the court is authorized to place the matter on hold if the non-filing spouse is on active duty. The service member will have an opportunity to appear before the judge and respond to the lawsuit. 

The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) allows a stay on the legal process under these circumstances:

  • A letter or other communication explains the service member’s current duty requirements preventing them from appearing and provides a date when they can appear.
  • The service member’s commanding officer provides a letter or other communication stating the current duty requirements prevent an appearance, and leave is not authorized.

The judge handling the divorce case can use their discretion to decide the timeframe for the stay. The minimum required stay is 90 days. However, military members can request an extension if they show due diligence and good faith in trying to leave service to attend the court hearing.

How the Courts Divide Property in Military Divorces

The courts use equitable distribution to divide marital property between a divorcing couple. That means the courts base their decisions on who gets what portion of the community property on what’s fair rather than making a 50/50 split.

While vested military pensions can be considered community property, military disability benefits cannot. The Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act protects the rights of those married to military members. Federal law treats pensions as marital property, simplifying the process of a divorcing spouse obtaining a share of the military spouse’s pension.

Pursuing Child Custody When One Spouse Is in the Military

In any divorce case, the court’s priority is to award custody that serves the child’s best interest. It’s crucial to understand that the judge might not award sole custody to the non-military parent. Serving on active duty does not mean someone is unfit to be a parent.

Judges often consider the child’s stability and experiences regarding military moves. They might decide it’s in the child’s best interest to have time with both parents, even if that means sometimes living with the military member but being cared for by a grandparent or another adult when the parent leaves to fulfill their military obligations.

Protect Your Rights with a Skilled Divorce Lawyer in Virginia Beach

Military divorces are subject to various federal laws that might be confusing. Before filing or responding to your spouse’s divorce petition, contact Invictus Law for legal guidance and support.

You can count on our legal team to fight for you. If you’re going through a military divorce, contact us today at 757-317-5125 for a confidential consultation.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back To Top