West Virginia Military Divorce Attorneys
Getting a divorce in West Virginia can be an emotionally taxing process even under the best of circumstances. If one of the spouses happens to be a service member, the process can become even more complicated.
At Pence Law Firm PLLC, we have represented numerous service members and their spouses in divorce cases, and we are aware of the unique issues that couples might face in military divorces. We will advocate for your best interests and take all available legal steps to achieve the most positive outcome possible.
Contact us today to discuss your case with one of our experienced West Virginia military divorce attorneys.
Military Divorces Can be More Complex Than Civilian Divorces
While the grounds for getting a military divorce in West Virginia are the same as a civilian divorce, the state and federal laws surrounding these types of divorces are different. These laws are in place to offer a wide range of legal protections to service members in the event of a divorce. They include:
Protection against Default Judgments
The Service Members Civil Relief Act (SCRA) offers active service members protection from default judgments in divorce and other civil proceedings. Normally, in a divorce case, the plaintiff (the spouse that files for divorce) can request the court for a default divorce if the respondent (the other spouse) does not respond to the summons within 20 days.
In a military divorce, the aforementioned rule is not applicable because an active service member might not receive the summons or might not be able to respond to it, especially if they are deployed in a different country.
This is why the plaintiff in a military divorce is required to submit an affidavit stating whether their spouse is in the military and whether they are currently on duty. The court is required to appoint an attorney to represent the service member. If the service member cannot be reached, the court is required to stay the divorce proceedings for a minimum of 90 days.
If a default judgment is issued against an active service member without taking the aforementioned law into consideration, the court can vacate or set aside the judgment. If the judgment is vacated or set aside, the case will go back to square one and the plaintiff will have to file another petition.
The Right to Stay Divorce Proceedings
The SCRA also gives active service members the right to apply for an additional stay on divorce proceedings – in addition to the aforementioned mandatory 90-day period.
In order to stay the proceedings for a longer period of time, the service member is required to file an application with the court and explain why they cannot appear and how long they need the proceedings to be stayed. The application must also include a note from the service member’s commander explaining why the service member cannot appear in court.
If the service member can appear in court, their lawyer can file a request with the court so that the divorce proceedings can be timed according to their schedule and deployments.
Division of Pension in a West Virginia Military Divorce
Military pension is generally considered marital property in West Virginia, which means a service member’s spouse can get a share of it – depending on the circumstances. If the service member served in the military for a period of 10 years while they were married, the spouse can get a share of the military pension, which will be paid by the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS).
Even if the 10/10 criterion (10 years of service and 10 years of marriage) is not met, the service member’s spouse can still receive a share of the pension – if the court deems it to be fair and equitable property distribution. The only difference is that the share will be paid by the service member, not the DFAS.
If the service member was married for a period of 20 years and if they served in the military for at least 15 years during that time period, their spouse is legally entitled to receive full medical, exchange, and commissary benefits after the divorce as well.
Child Custody and Visitation in a West Virginia Military Divorce
If one of the parents happens to be an active service member, it can complicate child custody and visitation arrangements to a great extent. The service member parent might not be able to spend as much time with their child as they are entitled to under the law. They might also not be able to remain as actively involved in their child’s life as they would want to.
Our attorneys will take these factors into account, work with the other spouse’s lawyer, and come up with a child custody and visitation agreement that can benefit the child while protecting the rights of the service member as a parent.
Highly Skilled Military Divorce Lawyers in West Virginia are Ready to Represent You
No divorce is easy. A military divorce, in particular, can be more complex than a civilian marriage dissolution due to the various state and federal laws that are applicable to these cases. This is why you need a dedicated military divorce lawyer to handle your case.
At Pence Law Firm PLLC, we have extensive knowledge of the laws governing military divorce and can provide you with effective, results-oriented legal representation that is tailored to your specific needs. We know how a spouse’s status as a service member can complicate property division, alimony, child support, and other issues and we know how to resolve them hopefully without resorting to a lengthy legal battle.
Call us today at 304-345-7250 or get in touch with us online to talk to one of our seasoned West Virginia military divorce attorneys.