Divorce is never a pleasant situation, or something couples plan or expect. It can be complicated, no matter your situation. However, if you or your spouse is a United States military member, there are special requirements and considerations to remember.
At this point, it is wise to seek counsel from a Florida divorce lawyer who understands the special considerations involved with divorcing individuals in the military.
State and Federal Laws Related to Military Divorce in Florida
In a civilian divorce, just state laws are involved. However, state and federal laws must be considered if you or your spouse are in the military.
Federal laws can impact where you can file for divorce and how your military pension is divided. State laws handle issues related to child custody, child support, and spousal support.
Filing for Divorce: Location Considerations
The court handling your divorce must have jurisdiction over you. For a civilian, this means the location where they live (in most cases). However, for someone in the military, the jurisdiction may be where they are considered a legal residence if the person in the military is stationed in another location.
For jurisdiction, there are three options for divorcing couples when one person is a military member, which includes the following options:
- The military member’s legal state of residency
- The location where a military member is stationed
- The state where the military member’s spouse lives
Florida state law determines divorce issues like child custody, child support, and property distribution.
Servicemembers Civil Relief Act
Regardless of Florida law, the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act presides over all cases where divorce is being filed while one spouse is on active duty in the military.
According to this law, service members are ineligible to begin divorce proceedings while on active duty or for 60 days after active duty ends (at the court’s discretion). This is designed to allow couples to focus on defending the nation rather than what is happening at home.
Considerations for Military Pensions and Benefits
One of the most important assets a military member has is their pension. If you divorce, your pension will likely be split between you and your spouse. The rules that govern how it is divided are outlined in the USFSPA (Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act).
The “10-Year Rule”
There is a 10-year rule, which the USFSPA establishes. Under this rule, the non-military spouse receives benefits from DFAS (Defense Finance and Accounting Service) for marriages that lasted at least 10 years. Additionally, the marriage and military service time must overlap.
While this is true, the rules regarding the division of a military pension are negotiable. There are options even if there are less than 10 years of overlap between the person’s time in the military and marriage.
The overlap is present when the spouse was married to the military member for at least half the time they served. The negotiation comes in like this:
- The non-military spouse could request 50% of their spouse’s pension even if they were unmarried for the required overlap time.
- Military members can request a smaller pension division if they remain married for over 10 years.
It does not matter how long the marriage lasted; the court can still allow the benefits payments to a military spouse to be used as an offset. The military member and not DFAS pay this.
Non-military spouses are allowed a maximum of 50% of their spouse’s retirement benefit. If child support is taken from the retirement benefit of the military spouse, the maximum spousal support and child support cannot be more than 65% of the disposable retirement pay the military spouse receives.
Other Privileges Awarded to Spouses of Military Members
The spouses of former and current military members are also eligible to receive full exchange, commissary, and medical privileges if the following things are true:
- The marriage lasted for 20 or more years
- The military member has 20 years of service toward their retirement pay
- There was a minimum of a 20-year overlap between military service and marriage
Child Custody, Child Support, and Spousal Support in a Florida Military Divorce
Special rules apply to child custody, child support, and spousal support when one person is in the military. Many military families spend a lot of time traveling and moving and have long deployments.
Due to the military lifestyle that is “common,” the spouse who is not in the military is often unemployed or underemployed. If this is the case, the military member will likely be responsible for paying spousal support to them.
Florida law determines child support amounts based on the service members’ entitlements. Sometimes, the non-military spouse receives more child support than usual because the military member may be unable to have the children on a regular visitation schedule due to deployments.
Because of the complexities involved with a military divorce and the unique rules that must be followed, it is recommended that you hire an experienced and knowledgeable Florida divorce lawyer. They will help you understand your rights and options while following all the established rules and regulations.
Contact Griffin Family Law, PLLC, for Help with Your Florida Military Divorce
If you are planning to file for divorce and you or your spouse is in the military, some special rules and regulations must be followed.
At Griffin Family Law, PLLC, I have helped countless military members and spouses of someone in the military with their Florida divorce. I can provide the advice and guidance you need while ensuring you meet all the special requirements.
The first step is to contact my office and schedule a consultation. We can discuss your situation, and I can help you figure out the best way to move forward.