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Three Ways Dual Military Divorce Is More Complicated

Three Ways Dual Military Divorce Is More Complicated

Divorce is seldom an easy process. However, the process can be even more confusing when you are a dual military couple. Housing, BAH allowances, and child custody are common issues that can complicate a dual military divorce.

At Invictus Law, our military law attorneys want to help you understand dual military divorce regulations and how military divorce in Virginia can be more complicated than a traditional divorce.

#1 BAH Allowances

Basic Allowance for Housing, or BAH, is a financial allowance distributed to active service members not living in government-provided housing. The payments help service members pay for housing for themselves and their dependents, like spouses or children. A BAH allowance does not cover the entire cost of a person’s housing expenses, but it covers a generous portion.

When dual military members seek a divorce, they may each be able to retain BAH benefits for living expenses if they both continue living outside of government-issued housing. However, following divorce, BAH benefits can change. If dual military members share custody of children, the housing allowance picture is murky. Both members cannot receive a housing allowance based on the same dependent at the same time, meaning a parent’s BAH rates may shift. BAH-With is the allowance rate a member receives when they have eligible dependents. BAH- Without is the rate received without eligible dependents in the home.

Allowances can also change when one parent has primary custody. BAH Differential or BAH-Diff is an allowance paid to a military member with no spouse or children living with them but who pays more child support than the BAH-Diff amount.

Additionally, the rank of each partner may play a role in determining BAH benefits. Senior-ranking military partners may get full BAH benefits, while junior-ranking spouses get partial benefits until the divorce is finalized. If there are no children, the junior-ranking spouse may be required to live in the barracks after the divorce is final.

#2 Pensions

Whether each spouse has a claim to the other’s military pension is also thorny in dual military divorces. In 1982, Congress passed the Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act. The legislation allowed states to treat “disposable retired pay,” which is the full military pension less specific deductions, as either the property solely of the military member or as property of the member and their spouse per state laws. Therefore, a service member’s retired military pay can be a valuable divorce asset in some states.

The service member’s spouse is entitled to the portion of retirement pay accrued from the marriage date to the date of separation. In Virginia, military retirement pay is typically considered marital property. The eligible retirement pay of both parties will be considered and will be divided equitably, but not necessarily 50/50.

# 3 Child Custody

Child custody issues can be more complicated when both partners are active military members. Coordinating deployment schedules, housing accommodations, and changing base assignments can be challenging for divorcing dual military members. Communication and effective co-parenting strategies are essential. Generally, child custody agreements are subject to individual state laws.

Virginia protects military parents’ rights with the Virginia Military Parents Equal Protection Act of 2008. This legislation considers deployment a valid reason for temporary custody modification or visitation. Parents can revisit custody modification orders within 30 days of the end of the service member’s deployment. Service members can also delegate their parenting time to family members during deployment.

Contact a Knowledgeable Military Divorce Attorney in Virginia

A dual military divorce poses unique challenges, and an experienced Virginia military divorce attorney can work to achieve the results you need. If you and your spouse are active-duty military members considering divorce, talk to a knowledgeable military divorce attorney at Invictus Law today. We want to help protect your legal rights. Call 757-337-2500 to arrange a legal consultation.


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