Fredericksburg Military and Federal Employee Divorce Attorney

Military divorce is subject to state and federal law, which means spouses must follow certain provisions that may not be present in non-military divorce. For instance, either spouse may be awarded benefits in a military divorce and must adhere to conditions set forth by state and federal law.

A Fredericksburg divorce attorney at Select Law Partners PLLC has the experience to guide you through the many complexities of military divorce. To learn more about how we can help you, use our online contact form or call (855) 541-4867 to schedule a consultation.

Residency requirements for a military divorce

The residency requirements for filing for a military divorce are fairly straightforward: at least one spouse must reside in Virginia or be stationed in the Commonwealth for at least six months, even if you don’t intend to stay. Even service members or spouses stationed outside the U.S. may fulfill the residency requirement for Virginia. A spouse may meet the residency requirement if Virginia was their most recent U.S. residence and they have only gone to one duty station outside the country since living in the state.

Protections under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA)

In a typical divorce, one spouse “serves” a formal Complaint against the other. The spouse who receives the Complaint must file a responsive pleading, called an Answer, within 21 days, and if they do not, they could lose some of their rights and privileges in the divorce proceeding. However, no divorce can be completed without proper service of the Complaint.

Service members are often on missions, deployments, or training, making answering any Complaint difficult or impossible for a service member in the requisite time period. In the past, this left many service members in shock when they returned from overseas only to discover that their spouse divorced them while they were away.

Luckily, the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) protects defendants who have been served with a Complaint and are actively serving in any branch of the U.S. Armed Forces. These protections are in place to allow service members to actively represent their interests in any civil actions filed against them. Some of the protections include such things as the following:

  • The judge presiding over the case can’t make any rulings until first appointing an attorney to represent the defendant. That attorney is also known as a guardian ad litem and will then be responsible for contacting the service member and representing them during the action filed with the Court. 
  • The Court may stay the proceedings for at least 90 days, or longer in certain circumstances, before entering any type of judgment either at the service member’s request or on its own motion.

Issues unique to military and federal divorce

Military divorce and divorces for federal employees involve a lot of issues that don’t exist in a conventional divorce. Here are a few to consider and discuss with a Select Law Partners PLLC family law attorney.


There are many rules and requirements governing military housing for both spouses, some of which also apply to federal employees living overseas and residing in government housing. If you live in government or military housing on or off base, both spouses can usually stay for a certain amount of time while new housing accommodations are sought.

Ultimately, depending on the circumstances, the service member or federal employee spouse might be able to continue living in military housing, but the non-service member or non-federal employee spouse will not. Speaking with a military and federal employee divorce lawyer in Fredericksburg is critical to learn how your housing might be affected, especially if you have children. 

Child custody 

Child custody issues can often be a concern in all divorces, but military and federal employees tend to have certain circumstances that apply only to them. In every divorce, civilian or military, the judge will issue rulings based on what they believe is in the child’s best interests as outlined in state law. Some of the things considered in every custody case are:

  • If the parents should share joint legal custody, one parent should have the sole decision-making responsibilities for the child. 
  • If physical custody should be joint, one parent should have primary physical custody and the other parent should have visitation.

One parent may receive sole custody, meaning they have all responsibilities for the child’s physical care and will also make all decisions. While the other parent may have visitation rights, they won’t have any say regarding decision-making.

Some of the things that can be specific to military or federal employees may be:

  • If the service member parent is awarded custody, the judge might need to consider if the child should stay wholly or primarily with that parent’s family during a deployment.
  • If the service member will be stationed in the same area for a substantial amount of time or if they will be moving every few years. 
  • Relocation cases are very common in military and federal employee cases whereas in civilian cases this may never be an issue to be addressed. 

If you’re a military member and want to ensure your rights and your child’s interests are protected, don’t hesitate to call our devoted Fredericksburg military and federal employee divorce lawyers.

Dividing military/government benefits

Federal employees and military members have pension plans and additional benefits that differ from those in the private sector. There are even differences between the benefits of a military member and those of a federal employee.  There are two main categories of federal plans: the Civil Service Retirement System and the Federal Employees Retirement System.

Several complex rules determine how funds from either one of these plans are divided in the event of a divorce. The Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act (USFSPA) outlines additional requirements for a service member’s pension, including that it’s treated as property. As a result, the spouse may be eligible to receive a portion of that pension. 

A skilled and knowledgeable Fredericksburg family law attorney from Select Law Partners PLLC will guide you through the intricacies of dividing these benefits and retirement plans and ensure that any applicable former spouse or dependent benefits are included in the final judgment. 

Child and spousal support

Child and spousal support are generally largely contentious issues in a civilian divorce. Still, they can become more complicated in a military divorce due to the additional benefits service members such as BAH and BAS receive. An additional complication might arise if the non-service member spouse hasn’t worked due to the frequent relocations and the need to be home with the children during the service member’s deployments, which might have affected their employability and job history.

The court will use statutory guidelines when determining how much child support a service member will have to pay. Spousal support is not determined by a statewide guideline – except temporary spousal support – but rather by factors determining the payee’s need versus the payor’s ability to pay.

The main factors in calculating child support are the parties’ income, the cost of work-related childcare by either parent, the cost of medical insurance for the children, and the percentage of custodial time each parent spends with the children. In determining how much spousal support should be paid, if it should be paid at all, and how long it should be paid, the court will weigh and consider several factors, including: 

  • Each spouse’s income;
  • Each spouse’s financial needs;
  • The length of the marriage;
  • The standard of living during the marriage;
  • Whether or not there are children;
  • Whether or not a spouse sacrificed their earning potential or career to support the other spouse or the children; and
  • How property is divided between the parties

Because Virginia doesn’t have set guidelines regarding how much spousal support is payable to one spouse from the other, the court has much discretion over this issue. This is yet another reason why you should hire an experienced attorney.

Marital property

State law requires that marital property be distributed equally – which does not necessarily mean equal distribution. The USFSPA governs how military retirement, insurance, and benefits may be treated in a divorce. The distribution of non-military property, accounts, assets, and debts equitably depends on the property’s classification as either marital, separate, or part-marital and part-separate.

Generally, any assets or accounts either spouse had upon entering the marriage or acquired during the marriage by gift, inheritance, bequest, or anything purchased with money from an inheritance or gift is that spouse’s separate property and will remain their separate property upon divorce. This might change if the asset was commingled with marital assets or if the property title was transferred into joint property. Similarly, in general terms, any property obtained during the marriage is presumptively marital property which will be divided equitably upon divorce.

Marital debts are generally any debts that were acquired during the marriage. However, some post-separation debts can also be considered marital for reasonable living expenses or attorney’s fees. After determining the class of each asset and debt, the “equitable division” principle comes into play.

Because it’s not necessarily an equal split, these are some of the factors the court will consider:

  • The non-monetary and monetary contributions each spouse made to the family during the marriage;
  • The non-monetary and monetary contributions each spouse made toward the acquisition and maintenance of property during the marriage;
  • The circumstances surrounding the acquisition of the property (how, when and why it was acquired);
  • The length of the marriage;
  • The tax implications of the distribution of property;
  • Each spouse’s health, age, and earning potential; and 
  • Any other circumstances the court decides are relevant to how the property should be distributed.

Our VA military and federal employee divorce lawyer is here to help

Call Select Law Partners PLLC at (855) 541-4867 or contact us online to schedule a consultation with one of our highly experienced Fredericksburg family attorneys.

Meet our military & federal divorce attorneys

The attorneys and support staff at Select Law Partners PLLC are highly experienced in the intricacies of military and federal divorces. Here’s a spotlight on two lawyers from our distinguished team: Matthew Kurylo and Sarah Goding.

Matthew Kurylo

Matt, a proud veteran and native of the Commonwealth, is passionate about providing the highest-quality representation to clients in Central and Northern Virginia, including Fredericksburg. Matt  served in the U.S. Marine Corps, working with the Office of the Staff Judge Advocate at Camp Lejeune, NC, and in Quantico, VA. He earned a B.S. degree from Campbell University and his J.D. from the University of Richmond School of Law. Matt has earned several different military awards and commendations, including:

  • Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, August 8, 2001
  • Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, November 1, 2002
  • National Defense Service Medal (Bronze Star in place of Second Award), February 18, 2003
  • Armed Forces Reserve Medal (with “M” device), February 18, 2003
  • Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, November 16, 2004

Sarah Goding

Sarah is an incredible family law attorney with a deep understanding of the needs of military service members, federal employees, and their spouses. She has helped many clients in Fredericksburg and Northern Virginia navigate the complexities of divorce proceedings, including child custody, child support, and spousal support.

The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.

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