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Can activate military service members stop a divorce?

Virginia law requires personal service of divorce orders on members of the military. If you were unable to respond to a divorce action by a spouse, the statute could protect you from an automatic divorce — something you may have heard described as a default judgment.

This could be an important safeguard if you were not in favor of the divorce, or if you believe that you would benefit from mediation or another form of alternative dispute resolution. There are also other ways to protect your rights.

You could also postpone a divorce under special circumstances, specifically if you were recently returning from active duty. There is a 60-day period after you return during which you could potentially delay certain aspects of the case.

As mentioned on, where you file matters. This Virginia law has the potential to protect you and your family from the initial stresses of your return back from duty. However, if you were to decide that the divorce was the right move for you, you could probably waive these rights at any time and continue with the proceedings. 

It may also be worth noting that, to qualify for divorce in Virginia, you or your spouse would have to have maintained residency in the state for six months and have an intention to stay. The law does make an exception that could allow you to file if you are stationed on one of the bases in the state — even if you did not intend to maintain a domicile going forward.

Through an appropriate choice of venue and the knowledge of statutory and case law, you could have a good chance preserving your rights. However, divorce is often a complicated procedure, so please do not take this as legal advice pertaining to any particular material circumstance. It is only general information.

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