Legal resources for Virginia military service members are available at Langley Air Force Base and Fort Eustis. The free assistance includes explanations of military-specific regulations affecting personnel and their families. However, the military’s position is the majority of family law matters are personal and should be resolved privately.
When military couples divorce or have disputes over child custody and support, they are directed to civilian attorneys and civilian courts. State laws dictate the conditions under which divorces are granted, but other regulations apply only to military spouses. For instance, the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act outlines the way military pensions and other benefits are divided in divorce.
This overlap in laws can be perplexing for military personnel and their spouses. Fortunately, legal aid provided by the military can help you understand how divorce matters are handled. Service members commonly and mistakenly assume they must file for divorce in a home state or the state where they married.
Residency is a crucial factor in civilian and military divorces. In Virginia, at least one spouse must be a “bona fide resident” for six months prior to filing a divorce petition. A service member deployed after being stationed in Virginia for at least six months meets the state’s residency requirements.
In short, military spouses often have more choices about where to divorce than civilian couples. Legal advisers suggest weighing the pros and cons of divorce laws in each state before deciding where to file. When you’re stationed in one state and wish to divorce in another state, factor in costs associated with long-distance legal representation and possible travel expenses.
Military and civilian divorces are similar, but there are enough differences to warrant taking your time to make beneficial choices. Take advantage of the military legal resources open to you. Then, speak with a civilian attorney with military divorce experience before making up your mind.
Source: Military One Source, “Rights and Benefits of Divorced Spouses in the Military” Dec. 06, 2014