Know that your divorce attorney understands the unique features of Virginia divorce law that apply if you or your spouse is in the United States military.
One of the first questions which must be answered in many Virginia divorce cases is whether either of the spouses even has a right to seek a divorce in Virginia. In order for any person to ask a Virginia court to grant a divorce, he or she must meet certain residency requirements. But there are special laws that apply to military service members who are stationed or have been stationed in Virginia which differ from the requirements placed on civilians. Understanding these laws, and whether or not a person is even entitled to seek a divorce in Virginia, is but one of the many crucial first steps to properly handling a divorce in Virginia where one of the parties is in the military.
Yet many other, more complex, considerations come into play when one of the spouses in a divorce is a military service member. Among the hard earned benefits of being a member of the United States military is the accrual of military retirement benefits. If a military service member is eligible for retirement benefits and was married during his or her creditable service, those benefits may be divided in the context of a divorce proceeding under Virginia law. It is crucial for your divorce lawyer to understand these benefits and the different ways in which they can be divided. Virginia divorce law contains provisions for the distribution of military retirement benefits in divorce, and the Uniform Former Spouse’s Protection Act (UFSPA) specifically authorizes the State courts in divorce proceedings to divide those retirement benefits. Accomplishing this division correctly, and in accordance with your rights, could make the difference between getting all that you are entitled to, or losing out on important, hard earned benefits.
Closely related to the issue of military retirement benefits is the issue of Survivor Benefit Plan, or “SBP” protection. These are payments that can be made to a spouse or former spouse of a military service members upon the service member’s death. Failing to understand this important benefit, and the strict legal requirements for it to be secured, could make the difference in thousands of dollars to you and your family.
If you or your spouse is a member of the United States military, ask some hard questions before you hire a lawyer. And know that your attorney understands the unique application of Virginia law to your situtation, whether you are a member of the United States military or the spouse of military service member.