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Wading into the uncertain waters of military divorce

Being married to a member of the U.S. Armed Forces may seem like one challenge after another. Between training exercises, deployment, frequent moves and moves to unfamiliar cities, and your spouse's reluctance (and inability) to share certain aspects of the job, you may feel as if the world is conspiring against the success of your marriage.

Just like in every marriage, many of the trials you face will pass and you may be able to move forward with a stronger relationship. Many couples have found that marriage counseling was a great help to them. However, if counseling is not for you or hasn't helped and you are worried that you are headed toward a divorce, it is important to understand that a military divorce can be as complicated as a military marriage.

Protecting your rights as the non-military spouse

If your spouse is active or retired military, your divorce may be different from a “civilian” divorce. Something that would otherwise be simple, like serving your spouse with a complaint for divorce to start the divorce process, may be complicated if he or she is deployed overseas or even stationed elsewhere within the U.S.

As the non-military member, you may have certain rights that you do not want to unwittingly waive or give up. The Uniformed Services Former Spouses' Protection Act includes your possible rights regarding the following:

  • Your spouse's military retirement pay
  • Continued healthcare insurance coverage under TRICARE
  • Commissary and post exchange privileges
  • Your spouse’s Survivor Benefit Plan

Recent changes in the law have affected what the Virginia courts can order, and even what you and your spouse may agree upon, concerning the division of military retirement pay.

Rebuilding your network of support

Undoubtedly, you formed relationships with other military families throughout your marriage. When you divorce a military service member, not only may you face factors that complicate and prolong your divorce process, but you may lose the network of people you have bonded with throughout your marriage. These relationships become collateral damage of the separation and divorce. While you may welcome a change from some aspects of military life, the loss of friendships and your support system may be very painful.

Seeking advice from a Virginia attorney who is familiar with federal and Virginia law regarding divorce, military retirement pay, and your other rights as a military spouse will provide you someone in your corner – giving you support and the legal advantage you need to work toward a more positive future.

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