Unlike a divorce between two civilians, a military divorce involves quite a few additional considerations and negotiations. If you or your spouse is a member of the military, active or retired, you should speak with a knowledgeable military divorce lawyer. Dividing assets and accounts unique to military members can be quite complex, as can custody and visitation issues surrounding the military spouse’s hectic and unpredictable schedule.
Division of Marital Assets
In Virginia, assets are divided according to a concept known as the equitable distribution of property. If the parties are unable to agree on how assets and property should be divided, the court will award property based on what is fair and just. Property is not divided 50/50, but in accordance with factors such as the contribution to the marriage, length of the marriage, employability and earning potential after divorce, and financial stability.
Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act (USFSPA)
The USFSPA was enacted to prevent spousal destitution after divorce, and requires courts to treat military retirement as marital property, not mere income. This means that a court can divide the amount of the payment between the spouses in an equitable manner, and can also set aside the amount for alimony and child support if necessary. The USFSPA also permits an ex-spouse to continue receiving commissary, exchange, and healthcare benefits, subject to certain conditions. These benefits are available if the service member served at least 20 years and the marriage overlapped service dates by at least 20 years.
A divorce involving a member of the armed forces brings about special challenges. One of the most complicated areas that a military divorce attorney can assist you with is the division of military retirement pay and pension. The non-military member spouse may be entitled to a share of these assets, but only under certain conditions.
You should remember that even if an ex-spouse is technically ineligible for retirement benefits under military law, the spouses can still work out an arrangement through a divorce settlement giving the ex-spouse a portion of the benefits. Your lawyer will discuss settlement options for retirement plans as well as for alimony, child support, and other divorce issues.
Custody and Visitation
Custody and visitation issues are often difficult when it comes to military divorces, as service members are often stationed in remote locations throughout the world for long periods of time. A lawyer who has experience with handling military divorces can help you and your spouse devise a visitation and custody arrangement that works in light of your unique situation, and will make certain your rights as a parent are upheld, regardless of your status as a military member.