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Steps toward a military divorce in Virginia

A Virginia military couple's life can be very stressful, particularly when deployment takes a service member far away for long periods. The Pentagon reported the military divorce rate was 3.5 percent in 2012, slightly lower than the 2010 civilian divorce rate. The statistics matter very little when relationship troubles become personal - the end of a marriage isn't easy for anyone.

Couples may not realize military divorces in Virginia go through civilian courts. The residency requirement before filing a divorce petition is six months. Laws apply to separations and divorces, although a separation called a bed and board decree is a form of partial divorce.

Grounds are required for the full dissolution of marriage in Virginia. Grounds include adultery, a spouse's felony conviction, abandonment and cruelty or a complete separation of six months to one year, depending upon whether a couple has children.

Virginia is an equitable distribution state, which means marital property belonging to military spouses is divided fairly. The law does not guarantee assets and liabilities will be equally shared. Couples may choose to enter into a separation agreement that contains other terms, which a court will approve and include as part of a divorce agreement.

Unique military rules apply to divorcing service members and their spouses. For instance, pensions are divisible marital property in Virginia. However, military rules contain specific provisions about spousal claims on military retirement pay.

Separating and divorcing spouses should have a complete understanding of the differences between separate and marital property, according to state law and according to the military. Separate property generally includes assets and debts brought into a marriage, plus gifts and inheritances. In a nutshell, marital property is all property that doesn't qualify as separate.

Some of your questions may have been answered here but not as they apply to your situation. For those answers, talk with a civilian family law attorney experienced with military divorces.

Source: JB Langley-Eustis Law Center, "Divorce and separation in Virginia" Oct. 18, 2014

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