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Domestic Violence and Military Divorce in Virginia


         Domestic violence is part of an unfortunate percent of marriages, and military marriages are no exception. The manner in which domestic violence in a military marriage is handled depends on whether the abuser spouse is a civilian or a servicemember. If the abuser spouse is a civilian, the military must relinquish the case to the civilian authorities. However, the military may nevertheless take limited action and ban the civilian from all military installations. If the abuser spouse is a servicemember, the military has two different options available: (i) the military justice system and (ii) the Family Advocacy system. Although both systems offer options for use by the military in handling domestic violence by a servicemember spouse, the military justice system is concerned primarily with punishment while the Family Advocacy system is mainly a source for intervention and treatment.

         The role of the Family Advocacy system is to investigate the purported abuse, and then to present the case to a multi-disciplinary committee. Each multi-disciplinary committee is comprised of representatives from the Family Advocacy Program, law enforcement, staff judge advocate, medical staff, and chaplain. The committee will determine if the case is substantiated, suspected, or unsubstantiated. . In making its spousal abuse determination, the committee defines spousal abuse as, “assault, battery, threat to injure or kill, other act of force or violence, or emotional maltreatment inflicted on a partner in a lawful marriage when one of the partners is a military member or is employed by the Department of Defense and is eligible for treatment in an MTF.”

  •    A substantiated case exists when there is a finding of abuse by a preponderance of the evidence, in other words a finding that it is more likely than not that abuse has occurred.
  •    A suspected case is one which requires further investigation for a maximum of twelve weeks before a determination of abuse can be made.
  •    An unsubstantiated case exists when the committee concludes by a preponderance of the evidence that no abuse occurred.

          If the committee finds that the abuse is substantiated, the appropriate military commander will determine what type of action is to be taken regarding the abusive servicemember spouse. Additionally, under 10 U.S. Code §1059, the abused spouse will be entitled to transitional compensation and benefits if his or her servicemember spouse is discharged for the spousal abuse at issue. The transitional compensation will be paid to the abused spouse for no less than a 12 months and no more than 36 months. The payments are calculated according to 38 USC § 1311, and are distributed monthly. As a supplement to transitional pay, if the abusive servicemember spouse was eligible for retirement when the offense was committed, the abused spouse may be entitled to a portion of the military member’s retirement pay. The retirement pay is determined by, and subject to, the regulations of 10 USC § 1408.


An outstanding job on my case to have custody, visitation and support decided in my home state instead of Virginia after I separated from military service.- A.E.