No person, regardless of occupation, remains immune from the emotional impact of divorce. The legal process for service members, however, involves a special set of legal standards. Issues from residency and child custody to the scope of marital property and child support, among others, involve both state and federal law.
A person’s legal residence contributes significantly to which state rules will determine the terms of a divorce. Servicemembers can have only one legal home state, known as the “SLR”, or State of Legal Residence. This may or may not be the same as the “Home of Record,” which refers to the state where the member first entered the military.
Relocation may also create problems for those against whom a spouse files for divorce while on active duty. The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act can address these concerns.
Federal law determines state authority
The United States Former Spouses’ Protection Act (USFSPA) permits state courts to address numerous issues specific to servicemembers. For example, a state must meet certain requirements in order to have the authority to divide military retired pay. The law permits division of only up to half of the member’s disposable retired pay, subject to limitations.
USFSPA also controls the method, but not substance, of payments of marital property upon a divorce. Various numerical rules determine whether the spouse receives payment directly or from another source. Percentage limits also apply to garnishment of earnings for alimony, a military ID card and its privileges, and garnishment for alimony and child support.
Specific solutions for specific circumstances
Virginia divides marital property earned during the marriage by a number of factors. Resident servicemembers have no magic formula to determine the division of marital property. Federal laws, and laws of other states, may impact the remedies available, regardless of who initiates the process. A law firm focused on the legal considerations can help to assess these factors to reduce their concerns.