Divorce
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Norfolk Military Divorce Attorney

Marriage is not easy, and military marriages are especially challenging. In fact, the military divorce rate is almost twice that of civilians. Unfortunately, military divorces are also more complicated than civilian ones. Considerations of child and spousal support, custody, and property division are all impacted by the military, so hiring a Norfolk divorce attorney familiar with the specifics of a military divorce is crucial. Below, we provide more information about the distinctive considerations of a military divorce and how a skilled and dedicated divorce attorney can help you find the solution you need.


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Can Military Members Stationed in Norfolk File for Divorce in Virginia?

Whether or not you can file for divorce while stationed in Norfolk will depend on how long you have been in Virginia. In order to initiate divorce proceedings, as a military spouse or servicemember, you must be stationed in or living in Virginia for at least six months, and these six months must be continual. Both spouses do not need to be located in Virginia, but the one filing for the divorce must prove that they have been in the Commonwealth for at least those six months.

Steps to Take When Filing for a Military Divorce

When one or both spouses are in the military, you must take the following steps to initiate the military divorce process.

1. Understand the Federal Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA)

Before initiating divorce proceedings, you should understand what is possible and what is not under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. Certain actions are prevented by the SCRA, such as seeking a default judgment without the consent of the military member. Also, once you serve divorce papers, the active duty service member may request a “stay” in the proceedings, essentially putting the matter on hold.

2. Determine Correct Filing Location

Understand legal residency requirements before determining which state to file in for divorce. As mentioned above, if you live in or are stationed in Virginia for at least six months, you can file in Virginia. Serving aboard a ship with its home port in Norfolk also makes you eligible. It is important to note here that only one of the spouses must meet the legal residency requirement.

3. Be Knowledgeable About Benefits and Potential Allocations

Factors influencing the allocation of benefits are the marriage’s duration and the service member’s number of years in the military. For example, non-military spouses may be granted a portion of the military pension their spouse earned while married under the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act (USFSPA).

4. Consult with a Norfolk Attorney Experienced with Military Divorces

Whether you are a service member or non-military spouse, knowing what your rights are while undergoing a divorce will be imperative before filing. You should perform each step needed to meet all military and legal requirements. For help, seek the legal advice and guidance of experienced Norfolk military divorce attorneys. They will assist you in navigating state and federal laws and help you understand what you are entitled to in the divorce.

Key Differences Between Military and Civilian Divorces in Norfolk, Virginia

military uniform next to a wedding dress

Several key differences exist in family law matters involving military and civilian divorces, and each of these differences impacts the process and outcomes. Three key differences involve deployment and relocation, child support, and spousal support.

Deployment and Relocation

Active-duty military families must face certain challenges that civilian couples do not, such as receiving orders to be stationed in a different state or deployed to another part of the world. These unique situations can create significant stress on the family and also affect divorce proceedings. As such, if military service members receive divorce papers once deployed, wherever they are on the world map, they have the right to postpone the proceedings.

Relocation, on the other hand, can impact where you file for divorce and will also factor into any child custody arrangements.

Child Support

Child support calculations can be affected by a variety of factors. As a service member, the court may require you to pay more child support if a relocation or deployment puts additional strain on the custodial parent. Since you are unable to share in parenting duties during these times, the custodial spouse may face additional expenses. You may be required to compensate them for these expenses.

Spousal Support

In the military, a servicemember’s Commanding Officer (CO) can order spousal support or alimony before a court order is handed down. The process will depend on the branch of the military (Navy, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard, or Army) you are in, and the CO will consult a guide before establishing the amount of support. A Commanding Officer can also punish a servicemember if they violate the spousal support requirements.

With so many considerations involved, you need an attorney by your side who takes these into account and finds the solutions you need to ease the divorce process and seek answers for your particular situation.

Legal Rights for Military Spouses in Norfolk

Military spouses in Norfolk do retain certain rights during and after a divorce. For instance, the spouse will be able to keep their military ID while divorce proceedings continue. This card and all the privileges attached to it are by issue of the US government and the servicemember does not have the right to take it away. However, once the divorce is finalized, whether the spouse can keep the military ID card and its privileges, such as access to the commissary and health care coverage, will depend on whether they meet what is referred to as the 20/20/20 rule.

The 20/20/20 rule refers to the duration of the marriage and the length of the servicemember’s service — if you were married for at least 20 years, with 20 years of military service overlapping with the marriage, you retain certain privileges like commissary access until you remarry.

Division of Military Benefits and Pensions in Divorce

One area of concern when it comes to divorce and the equitable distribution of assets is the division of military benefits and pensions. Under the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act (USFSPA), the former spouse is not automatically entitled to a portion of retirement pay. Certain requirements must first be met, as outlined in the 10/10 and 20/20/20 rules.

The 10/10 Rule

While state law will determine what is to be included as marital property for division in a divorce, including military pensions, it is the USFSPA’s 10/10 rule that will govern over payment method.

For direct payment, there must be at least 10 years of marriage that overlap with at least 10 years of military service. This payout will most likely come from the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) center. For a marriage not meeting these requirements, the spouse may still obtain a portion of the retirement pay, but it will not be by direct payout.

The 20/20/20 Rule

The USFSPA 20/20/20 rule applies in a military divorce when determining a division of benefits for the non-military spouse. For this rule to apply, the following must be met:

  • The duration of the marriage was at least 20 years.
  • The spouse in the military must have served for 20 years or more.
  • 20 years of that marriage must have overlapped with the military service.

It is important to note here that while military retirement benefits will be subject to equitable division, disability benefits are not. Disability pay is separate from retirement benefits and not subject to division in divorce proceedings.

Child Custody and Support in Military Divorces

When it comes to child custody and support in military divorces, specific rules apply. One of the most important ones to consider in your divorce is that deployed servicemembers are protected from having their deployment used as the sole reason to deny or alter child custody. Even if deploying, the service member can still get custody and have their child stay with family.

When it comes to child custody and support, three of the biggest issues that will be examined to determine outcomes include:

  • Do they take initiative with the children?
  • Are they involved in the financial decisions of the household?
  • Do they know the routine of their home?

As such, child custody and support can quickly become complicated. Seek the legal advice of an experienced Hampton Roads military divorce lawyer so that your rights and options will be better understood.

Protecting Your Rights: Tips From a Norfolk Military Divorce Lawyer

wedding rings next to military memorabilia

 

Whether you are a military spouse or a servicemember, it is essential that you hire a family law attorney with experience in military divorces. There are more considerations for military divorce than civilian ones, and an experienced lawyer will know what is involved and how to guide you through the process. To help you get started, our military divorce lawyers provide the following tips.

Tips for Military Spouses

  • Put together a resume that includes your education and employment history, and provide how your military spouse’s career impacted those things.
  • Contact Fleet and Family Support Program services or a family advocacy program. They have several excellent resources for military dependents.
  • Make sure you have access to any legal documents pertinent to you and your children, such as birth certificates.

Tips for Servicemembers

  • Initiate a stay of proceedings if you will be deployed.
  • Hold off on dating. Military rules around adultery can be strict, depending on who is the enforcing party.
  • Put together a resume and get access to any legal documents pertinent to you and your children.
  • Keep a very close eye on all of your financial accounts.
  • Talk to your command to give them a heads up about your ongoing divorce proceedings.
  • If you are not from Norfolk and the non-military spouse moves with the kids, then as the servicemember, you need to file ASAP and not delay at all.
  • If there are children and you are involved with their doctor’s appointments or school, then only get information from the source rather than the non-military spouse.

How an Experienced Norfolk Military Divorce Law Firm Can Help

A divorce lawyer takes steps to make the overall process easier on you, which can include the following actions:

  • Explain the process and the legal concepts involved
  • Help you understand the mix of state and federal law
  • Guide you through each step of the divorce proceedings
  • Communicate and negotiate with the other spouse’s attorney
  • Give legal advice and guidance on child custody issues and more
  • Provide legal representation for you in the courtroom, if necessary

In addition, lawyers who are used to working with military clients understand the unique challenges of a Virginia military divorce. The results of a military divorce are very judge-specific and fact-specific, so you need an attorney on your side who doesn’t falter when it comes to addressing the specific rules and legal issues that are part of the process.

Why Our Military Clients Trust Montagna Law

At Montagna Law, we prioritize our client relationships, giving our all to each and every case we handle. Our clients trust our law firm because we never hesitate to go the extra mile and have years of experience helping hundreds of clients going through military divorce cases. Here is one client testimonial that speaks to that trust.

“Montagna [Law] helped me with my divorce. I couldn’t be happier to have [them] on my side. Being a military wife with a husband in the military, with a child, I felt [they] had my child’s needs in mind. I got the best advice and it ended with my son in mind. 10/10 Would recommend for any woman in a similar situation. Thank you Mr. Montagna for getting my family’s needs met.” –Sarah O.

We’ve Got Your Back

Whatever the reason or issues behind your military divorce, the law firm of Montagna Law in Norfolk, Virginia is here for you. We have you covered and will provide the legal advice you need, diligently guiding you through the entire process. Call our Norfolk law office today at 877-622-8100 to schedule an initial consultation or begin a conversation through our online contact form.

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Written By Jon Montagna

Attorney

Jon Montagna received a Bachelor of Arts in Literature from American University in Washington D.C. and graduated Cum Laude from the University of Miami School of Law in 1999. Jon practices law in the Hampton Roads Virginia area.