Divorce is a big decision for everyone. There are so many things to consider: finances, retirement accounts, homeownership, other property and, of course, children (if there are any).

For military families, it’s even more complicated. Servicemembers are often away from their families for extended periods of time. Their duties might prevent them from participating in divorce or custody proceedings. And military benefits such as pensions add another layer of complexity.

Here are three key questions to consider when facing a military divorce:

1. What if one spouse is away on active duty?

Divorce and custody proceedings require participating at multiple levels: in court, mediation and meetings with an attorney, to name a few. When a servicemember is on active duty, it’s nearly impossible for them to devote that kind of time and attention to civil legal proceedings. A federal law called the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) grants military members in these situations the right to postpone legal proceedings.

2. How can you work out a realistic parenting plan in light of frequent absences?

Military families require more creative solutions when it comes to custody arrangements. A typical week-on, week-off schedule likely won’t work when one spouse is away for months at a time. Frequent relocations pose additional challenges. These complexities require a nuanced approach on a case-by-case basis.

3. What should you do about the military pension?

Retirement accounts are often a major asset for divorcing couples – especially military families. Deciding how to divide a military pension is a complicated question involving many factors. Both federal and state law come into play.

Virginia law permits courts to divide military pensions along the same lines as civilian assets. Generally, only the marital share of the pension – that is, the amount earned after the parties got married – is divisible. Establishing an accurate valuation is thus an essential part of addressing military pensions.

Learn more about the nuances of military divorce.