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How are military pensions handled in a divorce?

How are military pensions handled in a divorce?

Military life is never easy, but if you or your spouse is in the military and you are thinking about getting a divorce in Virginia, your life can become even more complicated, especially with regard to issues surrounding the military pension. The Virginia State Bar explains that the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act allows state courts to treat military pensions as marital property for purposes of a property settlement, but only in certain situations.

Military pensions are a special classification of marital property and different states treat them differently. If you are the spouse who is in the military, the most important requirement for determining if a specific Virginia court can divide your pension during your divorce is that the court must have jurisdiction over you. Just because you currently are stationed in a particular Virginia county does not mean that its court has automatic jurisdiction over you. Jurisdiction must be established by one of the following three ways:

  1. Your residence in the county where your divorce is filed
  2. Your domicile in the county where your divorce is filed
  3. Your consent to placing yourself under the jurisdiction of the court in which your divorce is filed

In Virginia, unless one of the above three methods establishes the court’s jurisdiction over you personally, it may not have the authority to divide your military pension as part of your divorce. It may, however, have the authority to handle all other aspects of your divorce.

Residence versus domicile

The place where you and your spouse live is your residence. That is pretty straightforward unless you are a resident of another state and this is only your temporary home while you are stationed in Virginia. Domicile is even more complicated. Domicile requires not only your physical residence in the county where your marital home is located and where your divorce is filed, but also that this is the county that you consider to be your permanent home and to which you intend to return after any deployment elsewhere.

Establishing a specific Virginia court’s jurisdiction over you and your military pension is a complicated matter. The information presented here is provided for educational purposes only and should not be interpreted as legal advice.


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