Outer Mongolia sounds … remote. Still, a recent federal jobs listing showed a dozen opportunities for a posting in Mongolia. Overseas postings are not exclusively military; FederalJobs.net says more than 45,000 Americans serve overseas in the state department, military postings, and in teaching jobs. Some of them, surely, want to divorce. But how?
Only one of the two people divorcing in Virginia must live in Virginia. To be specific, for either one of you, your residence and domicile must be Virginia:
- Residence—Where you choose to live here and now, whether in an RV parked at a campsite, in an apartment you rent, or in one of your multitudinous mansions scattered across the globe, you independently wealthy guy, you
- Domicile—Your “permanent” address, the place you consider your long-time home
You could have two or more residences. You could maintain a small apartment in Norfolk when you are not being shipped off to Outer Mongolia, for example, to live in a cozy yurt on the steppes. The apartment and yurt are both your residences.
You can only ever have one domicile. Sure, the Department of Energy can send you to Switzerland on a two-year posting to work on the Large Hadron Collider, but you are still a domiciliary of Virginia because, after the posting, you return to your Richmond residence.
With non-military divorce, one or the other of you must be a legal resident of Virginia for at least six months prior to filing.
This is spelled out in Virginia Code § 20-97:
No suit for annulling a marriage or for divorce shall be maintainable, unless one of the parties was at the time of the filing of the suit and had been for at least six months preceding the filing of the suit an actual bona fide resident and domiciliary of the Commonwealth, nor shall any suit for affirming a marriage be maintainable, unless one of the parties be domiciled in, and is and has been an actual bona fide resident of, the Commonwealth at the time of filing such suit.
All that legalese means you can file for divorce in Virginia, even from Outer Mongolia, if your spouse lives and stays in Virginia. You can also file for divorce through a family law attorney in Virginia, even if you are in Outer Mongolia, if you file before you fly.
But what if you—a civilian employee of some part of the federal government—screwed up the timing, and your spouse is not living in Virginia, and you waited until you were in beautiful downtown Tsetserleg, Mongolia, before you filed for divorce?
The same law has you covered:
Any member of the Armed Forces of the United States or any civilian employee of the United States, including any foreign service officer, who (i) at the time the suit is filed is, or immediately preceding such suit was, stationed in any territory or foreign country and (ii) was domiciled in the Commonwealth for the six-month period immediately preceding his being stationed in such territory or country shall be deemed to have been domiciled in and to have been a bona fide resident of the Commonwealth during the six months preceding the filing of a suit for annulment or divorce. (emphasis added)
As a legal resident and domiciliary of Virginia, even if you are posted overseas for a military job, you have all the same rights as if you had your feet up on the coffee table of your Newport News home. These are clearly laid out in the same Virginia law, § 20-97:
For the purposes of this section only:
- If a member of the Armed Forces of the United States has been stationed or resided in the Commonwealth and has lived for a period of six months or more in the Commonwealth next preceding the filing of the suit, then such person shall be presumed to be domiciled in and to have been a bona fide resident of the Commonwealth during such period of time.
- Being stationed or residing in the Commonwealth includes, but is not limited to, a member of the armed forces being stationed or residing upon a ship having its home port in the Commonwealth or at an air, naval, or military base located within the Commonwealth over which the United States enjoys exclusive federal jurisdiction.
Legal, But Easy?
Whatever your line of work—energy scientist, Air Battle Manager—you can legally divorce your spouse while stationed overseas. It is not impossible. But is it easy?
It can be easy. You can work with an experienced Virginia legal team. With you on an aircraft carrier, in a yurt, or out on an Arctic ice floe, your Virginia divorce lawyer can efficiently file all the necessary, timely paperwork. You and your attorney can communicate by email, telephone, or video as needed.
Or you can find some inexperienced, one-size-fits-all attorney who dabbles in real estate, taxes, wills, slips-and-falls, and divorce. Then you might be in for a nightmare. You could end up doing more of the work than your attorney. Filings could miss deadlines. Uncontested divorce (the easiest kind) could turn into a nasty, contested divorce.
Choose wisely. Work with a law firm with years of experience working with overseas clients on all aspects of family law. Do not be afraid to ask tough questions when screening for a divorce lawyer. It is your time, money, and future.
At The Firm For Men, nothing is impossible. We strive every day to protect Virginia men’s rights and safeguard their futures. Contact us today or telephone our offices at (757) 383-9184 to speak with one of our experienced attorneys.