Divorces are often difficult, but may be even more difficult when they involve active members of the military. While the process of filing for divorce is generally the same when one or both spouses are members of the military as for non-military couples, there are some unique issues surrounding the classification and equitable distribution of military marital assets.
For military divorces, the filing for divorce must happen in the state where the military spouse is domiciled. The Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act states that the state where the military spouse resides is the only state authorized to divide military assets, such as the military pension, in the event of a divorce. Additionally, Virginia law requires an individual to be a resident of Virginia for at least 6 months before filing for divorce.
A spouse’s military pension is considered property during a divorce and the non-military spouse will typically receive 50% of the marital share of the military pension. The marital share begins when the marriage begins or when the military spouse enrolled in the military, whichever is later, and ends on the date of separation or divorce.
A Survivor Benefit Plan is created by the military for one beneficiary to ensure that a non-military surviving spouse receives 55% of the military spouse’s base pay after their death. When a couple divorces, the military spouse must decide whether the benefits will go to the non-military spouse involved in the divorce or be withheld for a potential future spouse. If the military spouse decides to have the benefits go to the non-military spouse, an election form must be filed to ensure the benefits go to the non-military spouse after the divorce.
A Thrift Savings Plan is a version of an IRA savings account that is a military asset during a divorce. Funds in a Thrift Savings Plan can either be divided during divorce proceedings or given to one spouse in exchange for another marital asset.
It is always a good idea to consult with a family law attorney when involved in divorce proceedings. However, especially for couples with at least one military spouse, it’s important to consult a family law attorney experienced in military divorces and familiar with the types of issues that may arise. Our family law attorneys have experience working with service members and military spouses and can help you navigate the process.