Should you file for a Florida military divorce, you can expect unique issues to arise, particularly when compared with a typical civilian divorce. State and federal laws and rules will apply in a Florida military divorce and it can be extremely beneficial for you to speak to an attorney from The Family Law Place regarding your military divorce. We have a thorough understanding of the laws set up to shield military personnel on active duty. These laws prevent those these military members from being held in default for failing to act on an unexpected divorce action. Our attorneys are familiar with the Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act, 50 UCS, Section 521 which allows a Florida court to postpone the proceeding while the military spouse is on active duty as well as for two months afterwards. The Family Law Place attorneys will ensure your rights are protected, no matter which side of the divorce you are on—military or civilian.
Deciding Where to File
Filing for divorce in a civilian world is a relative no-brainer when compared to a military divorce. In a civilian divorce, you file where you live, plain and simple. In a military marriage, however, the couple may be from one state, married in another, living in a third and own property in a fourth state. As if these aren’t complications enough, the couple may have recently moved to Florida, therefore have not been in the state long enough to establish residency.
Because divorce laws vary considerably from state to state, it can make a huge difference where a couple files as to how the divorce will proceed. If you have decided to file for divorce in Florida, you have probably already considered where you vote, pay state taxes, have a banking account, were issued a driver’s license, own property or pay real estate taxes into the equation. Most all states, including Florida, offer some type of “no-fault” divorce, allowing the marriage to end without proving either party did anything wrong, so this will likely not be a consideration.
The Process for a Florida Military Divorce
When you decide to proceed with a Florida military divorce, the military spouse who is currently on active duty must be served, just the same as in a civilian divorce. The military spouse must receive a summons as well as the Petition for Dissolution in order to allow the Florida court to have jurisdiction. If your divorce happens to be uncontested, and you are the civilian spouse, the active duty spouse may not have to be served so long as a waiver which acknowledges the divorce receives a signature and is legally filed.
As far as residency requirements for a Florida military divorce, either you or your spouse must reside or be stationed in the state of Florida. Grounds for a Florida military divorce will be either a marriage which is irretrievably broken or the mental incapacitation of one of the parties—declared by a judge at least three years prior to the filing of the Petition for Dissolution.
Regarding property division in a Florida military divorce, the assets are divided based on the equitable distribution of marital assets. Military divorces may have the added issues of the couple being separated for extended periods of time, complex estates and debts or one spouse facing a disability. The federal government has enacted the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act (USFSPA) which oversees the manner in which military retirement benefits are computed and distributed during a divorce. If the marriage has lasted less than ten years, there will be no division and distribution of the military pension to the non-military spouse. If there are children of the marriage, the child support amount combined with any awarded spousal support may not exceed 60% of the military member’s pay and allowances.
Potential Problems Associated With a Military Divorce
It is never a good idea for a non-military spouse to attempt to circumvent the requirements associated with notification of the military spouse—if the Petition for Dissolution fails to disclose the respondent’s military status, any default judgment entered is subject to being set aside.
A second issue associated with a military divorce relates to the military pension. Many civilians filing for a military divorce are unaware of the value of a military pension after twenty years or more of service—the pension can actually be the most valuable asset in a long-term military marriage. Consider that a Captain or Colonel could receive as much as $6,100 per month in retirement benefits with a retirement age of 45, after spending 20 years in the military.
As you can see, these retirement benefits can be considerable. When possible, the retirement pension should be distributed with a fixed dollar amount or a percentage. A fixed dollar amount generally works well, but may have the disadvantage of not including automatic cost of living increases, while a percentage is more advisable when all facts are disclosed and the member has already retired.
For longer-term military marriages, it is important that the military medical benefits known as 20/20/20 be considered. This means the marriage has lasted twenty years or more, the military spouse has twenty or more years of active military service (or a combination of active and reserve service), and there is a twenty year overlap between military service and the years of marriage “means.” This combination entitles the non-military spouse to full medical, commissary, exchange and theater privileges for life, and should not be overlooked during a Florida military divorce.
How the Family Law Place Can Help With Your Florida Military Divorce
The stress brought on by military service can take its toll on a marriage. Military divorces have distinct issues which combine state and federal law, therefore you will want to ensure your rights are properly protected. The attorneys at The Family Law Place will evaluate your marital assets carefully, taking into consideration the retirement benefits of the military spouse. Our attorneys have a solid understanding of the laws governing a Florida military divorce and considerable experience helping people just like you. We will ensure you are treated fairly, regardless of whether you are the military or the civilian spouse.