Whatever the circumstances, divorce is a difficult time. It is a major restructuring of a family and the adjustment period can be tough, to say the least. On top of the emotional and logistics involved with going through a divorce and starting a new chapter of your life, there are the legalities of divorce to face. Every divorce is different and comes with its own nuances. Military divorces in particular, have some complicated legal elements that make them different from civilian divorces. Because of this, it is important to look at some of the special considerations to take into account during a military divorce.
What are Some Special Considerations to Account for in a Military Divorce?
Right from the beginning, you will likely realize that a military divorce is different from a civilian divorce. For instance, you may need to serve a spouse who is on active military duty. To serve a spouse on active duty, he or she must be personally served with a summons and a copy of the divorce action. This will allow a Florida court to have jurisdiction over them even though he or she is an active military member. If the divorce is uncontested, the active duty spouse may sign a waiver affidavit acknowledging the divorce action and, thus, he or she would not need to be served.
You may file the divorce action where you are stationed, where you are a legal resident, or where your spouse is a legal resident. If you file in Florida, Florida law will apply for things like child support. Florida has child support guidelines and schedules that are utilized in determining the amount of child support that will be paid. Florida state law mandates that both child support and spousal support are not to exceed 60% of a military member’s pay and allowances.
In addition to Florida law, there will be some federal laws that come into play when a divorce involves a member of the armed forces. For instance, the Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act (USFPA) was enacted by the federal government and is used in the calculation and division of military pension benefits. Under USFSPA, up to 50% of a military member’s retirement pay can be awarded to a former spouse. Additionally, USFSPA makes a military spouse eligible for full medical benefits as well as exchange and commissary privileges in situations referred to as “20/20/20.” This is because a former military spouse will be eligible for these benefits if:
- The marriage was at least 20 years long;
- The military member has a minimum of 20 years of service creditable for retired pay; and
- There was a minimum of a 20-year overlap with the marriage and the military services.
If the spouse were to remarry, the eligibility for these benefits would come to an end. However, if that subsequent marriage was to end in divorce, the benefits would be reinstated.
Additionally, no matter how a military spouse’s retirement benefits are divided according to USFSPA, the court will treat the award amount like it is property or benefits in a civilian divorce for purposes of property division calculations.
Legal Support for Military Divorces
Going into a divorce is daunting for so many reasons. It is an emotional time and the thought of going through the legalities of divorce can be too much. At Bernal-Mora & Nickolaou, we help families, military or otherwise, through some of life’s most challenging times. Contact us today