Special Considerations For A Military Divorce

There is a considerable amount of overlap between a civilian and military divorce. When you file for divorce in Virginia, a court will be following the equitable distribution laws of Virginia. However, applying these laws to someone serving the military (or another branch of government) may be complicated.

For instance, Virginia requires you or your spouse to reside here for at least six months before you can file for divorce. If you are stationed in Virginia but are deployed elsewhere, do you meet the residency requirement? What if you live in Virginia but are stationed in Maryland? These are examples of how military members live under a set of circumstances that may not directly correlate with Virginia’s laws.

Another complication is the division of assets and child custody. Not only do service members have unique assets (e.g., survivor benefits and pensions), but working through child custody can be a challenge due to how often active duty personnel move and deploy. Attorneys who have experience with military divorces can help you navigate these hurdles.


As mentioned above, Virginia’s residency requirements may make it appear that it is difficult for someone in the military to file. Before filing, only one spouse has to live in Virginia for at least six months, including being stationed in Virginia. Typically, one or both people will need to have lived in Virginia for six months, and there is no expectation that the service member will live in Virginia afterward.

Being Served Papers

Virginia requires people to be separated for six months before filing for divorce if they don’t have children and have a written settlement agreement resolving all issues (or 12 months if they have children). A service member may be deployed during this time, which can count as part of the separation period.

At the end of that time, one spouse gets served with papers. If that person does not respond, the spouse who filed can still pursue a divorce, but it will take a bit longer. If the service member cannot respond or cannot appear in court, a judge will order a stay of proceedings until that can happen. Being deployed will not inhibit anyone from getting the chance to go to court and allow their legal counsel to respond.


Ultimately, custody is determined according to the child’s best interests. Your attorney can discuss the specifics of your situation with you, but there is no presumption that you cannot have custodial rights based on being an active duty service member.

Select Law Partners, PLLC

Select Law has extensive experience handling divorce litigation, dividing marital property, spousal support, child support, and working through child custody arrangements, whether you are a civilian or an active duty service member. If you have further questions or would like to speak with an attorney, contact Select Law to schedule a consultation.

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Matt Kurylo

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