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Navigating Residency Rules for Military Divorces in Virginia

The seasoned military family law attorneys at Pedersen Law have helped numerous service members and spouses navigate Virginia’s distinct military divorce landscape.

December 11, 2023

Residency Requirements

Virginia has special residency rules for divorces involving active-duty service members and their families. Typically, one spouse must have been a resident of Virginia for at least six months before filing for divorce. However, military personnel can waive this requirement due to their mobile lifestyle. As long as the service member has been stationed in Virginia for at least six months, according to military orders, they can file for divorce even if their spouse lives in another state.

Active Duty Service Member Residency

Active duty military service members who have received permanent change of station orders to be stationed in Virginia can file for divorce immediately with no independent residency requirement. The service member simply needs to provide proof of their military orders and active duty status to establish residency. This important exception prevents active duty personnel from waiting a six-month Virginia residency period before filing if they are newly stationed in the state. It also allows them to file for divorce quickly so they can resolve their dissolution while focused on their military responsibilities.

Spousal Residency Requirements

For civilian spouses of active duty military personnel, Virginia’s typical residency requirements still apply even if they have moved to Virginia simply due to their spouse’s military orders. The civilian spouse must independently establish their own Virginia residency for at least six months before having standing to file for divorce. However, if both the civilian spouse and the service member spouse agree to file for divorce using the service member’s military status to establish residency, some exceptions may apply.

Secondary Factors for Establishing Residency

If the civilian spouse cannot establish independent Virginia residency to file, Virginia courts will look at other factors to determine substantial nexus to the state. This includes where the couple was married, if they once lived in Virginia, if they owned property in Virginia, and other connections. Our military divorce attorneys can help spouses navigate residency issues.

Determining Jurisdiction and Venue

Proper jurisdiction and venue are critical in military divorces and depend on the residency issues discussed above. Jurisdiction refers to the court’s authority to hear a case, while venue specifies the proper location or county for filing within the state. Resolving both jurisdiction and venue properly from the outset helps prevent complications later.

Dividing Retirement and Benefits

In addition to residency rules, military divorces face unique challenges related to dividing military pensions, retirement pay, and other benefits. The federal Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act governs how these assets are treated in divorce. It is complex, but our attorneys understand the nuances around equitable distribution of military assets.

Child Custody and Support Complexities

If the military couple has children, custody disputes and child support can be complicated by deployments, frequent moves, and other issues. Military parents need advice from divorce lawyers experienced in addressing these specific concerns at the intersection of family and military law.

Contact Our Williamsburg Military Divorce Attorneys Today

The seasoned military family law attorneys at Pedersen Law have helped numerous service members and spouses navigate Virginia’s distinct military divorce landscape. Contact our Williamsburg office today to schedule a consultation.