Divorce is often a complex and stressful time in a person’s life, but when one or both spouses are in the military, the process becomes even more complicated given the state and federal laws that grant certain protections to service members who are active in the military. If you are considering a military divorce in Virginia, it is critical that you understand how these laws may impact your divorce.
Servicemembers’ Civil Relief Act (SCRA)
The SCRA is a federal law that protects members of the military from certain civil actions while they are on active duty. The purpose behind the Act is to allow members of the military to perform their job duties without the concern of civil litigation back home. The SCRA allows for a military member to postpone a civil action against them for the duration of their service plus 60 days, and this includes any petition for divorce from their spouses.
It is important to note that the SCRA cannot prevent a divorce from happening or block the spouse’s petition, but it can delay the proceedings for months or years depending on the length of deployment and when the spouse first tries to file a petition for divorce. A member of the military is allowed to waive protections under the SCRA, so if a divorce is uncontested, it will not be delayed by this law.
The Virginia Military Parents Equal Protection Act
State laws also protect military parents going through a divorce, to ensure that their service can not be used against them when it comes to child custody or visitation. The Virginia Military Parents Equal Protection Act protects a military parent’s right to contact and visitation, even during periods of deployment. The Act contains a number of stipulations about Virginia custody issues, with the first being that a court order limiting a deploying parent’s visitation can only be temporary. Upon the completion of deployment, the order must be reviewed within 30 days of filing. Barring any additional evidence, the court must put in place the contact and visitation order that was made prior to the deployment. Either parent who wants a change in the status of visitation must prove that it is in the best interests of the child to modify the agreement.
The Act makes it clear that the court can not use deployment alone as a reason to limit a parent’s contact and visitation with a child. In addition, the Act stipulates that while deployed, the military parent has the right to communicate with his or her child through phone calls, emails, text messages, or video conferences. The Act also allows the court to delegate the deployed parent’s existing visitation time to a stepparent or other family member of the military parent while on deployment if it is in the child’s best interests.
Contact a Virginia Attorney Now
If you are about to enter into a military divorce in Virginia, it is important that you understand the laws that may affect your divorce proceedings. Call or contact our office today to discuss your options.