Florida is home to 21 military bases representing every branch of the United States Military. As anyone who has served can attest, the challenges of military life — frequent deployments, relocations, family separations, and financial constraints — can be disruptive to a marriage and lead to a divorce. If you or your spouse serve in the military and are considering a divorce, it is crucial to consult an experienced family law attorney. Orlando Family Team provides advice and guidance to military families throughout the state of Florida. Well-versed in the state and federal laws governing military divorces, our husband and wife team has a well-earned reputation for proudly serving those who serve our country. When you work with us, you can rest assured that your service will be honored and your interests will be protected.
Military Divorce in Florida
Generally, active-duty military members have three options regarding where to file for a divorce:
- The state where the military member is stationed
- The state where the filing spouse resides
- The state where military member claims legal residency
For the Florida courts to have jurisdiction of a military divorce, however, one of the spouses must have lived in the state for at least 6 months prior to filing the divorce petition. If the divorce is filed in Florida, state law regarding alimony (spousal support), child custody, and child support are applicable, provided that the court has jurisdiction over these matters; however special military rules and requirements also apply.
Military Divorce Laws
Active-duty military members are protected against being held in default in a divorce proceeding. Under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), and in conjunction with the state courts, a divorce proceeding may be postponed while a servicemember is on active duty and for up to 60 days thereafter. The purpose of this law is to protect members of the armed forces from being taken advantage of while serving the country. An active-duty service member can waive this right, however, and allow a divorce to proceed. As mentioned above, the military has special rules concerning child custody, child support, alimony. In addition, questions over the division of certain marital assets, such as military pensions and benefits, are governed by federal law. Given the complicated interplay of state and federal laws, rules and requirements, it is essential to work with an experienced military divorce attorney.
Military Pensions and Benefits
One of the key issues that must be resolved in a military divorce, as in a civilian divorce, is the division of property, which includes retirement pay. While military pensions are governed by the Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act, a portion of the pension benefits may be subject to Florida’s rules of equitable distribution if the court has jurisdiction. Nonetheless, if the marriage has lasted at least 10 years, and this period overlapped with ten years of military service, the nonmember spouse’s share of the pension benefit is paid directly by the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS). If the length of the marriage was less than ten years, the court may order a retiring servicemember to pay a former spouse directly. Retirement pay is ultimately based on how long a military member serves, so the pension in a long-term military marriage could ultimately be the single largest asset. Additionally, a former spouse of a military member is eligible for full medical benefits (unless he or she is covered under an employer-sponsored plan) and other benefits as long as the (1) marriage has lasted at least 20 years, (2) the servicemember served for at least 20 years, and (3) there was a 20 year overlap of the marriage and military service. If the former spouse remarries, however, medical and all other benefits terminate. In sum, the potential value of a military pension and other benefits cannot be underestimated; and the complicated formula involved in determining the distribution of the marital portion of these assets makes having proper legal representation by an experienced military divorce lawyer crucial.
Spousal Support, Child Support, and Child Custody in Military Divorce
The military has special rules and requirements concerning alimony (spousal support), child support, and child custody to ensure that both parties comply with any agreements and orders. Because military service typically involves frequent deployments, and military couples often have young children, there are usually complicated family dynamics involved. Often, a military spouse is unemployed or underemployed while also handling duties as a mom on her own. This situation can cloud the issue of spousal support since current Florida law only allows permanent alimony in limited circumstances and a servicemember may ultimately have a higher spousal support obligation. As you can plainly see, having the guidance of an experienced military divorce attorney is essential. Similarly, child support laws may be determined by state law, however, the servicemember’s total entitlements — base pay, allowances, special pay — are key. Under Florida law, one of the determinants in child support is the time-sharing agreement and the number of overnights the noncustodial parent has with the child. In the case of a military family, however, frequent deployments mean the military spouse will not have regular visitation, offsetting the time-sharing plan while simultaneously increasing the non-military spouse’s share of the childcare burden. Given these complexities, the best decision you can make for yourself and your children is to work with Orlando Family Team. Our military divorce attorneys will provide you with powerful representation in court, arguing your case while always supporting the best interests of your child.
Contact Our Orlando Military Divorce Attorney
At Orlando Family team, we take pride in representing military families through all types of family law disputes. Not only is a marital breakup a painful experience, it poses unique challenges to servicemembers, non-member spouses and children alike, especially because military families are held to a higher standard than the civilian population. With so much at stake, the informed choice is to work with family law attorneys Ophelia Bernal-Mora, Esq., B.C.S. and Andrew Nickolaou, Esq., a husband and wife team dedicated to providing advice and support to military families when they need it most. Please contact our office today to learn how we can help