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Navigating Divorce While Serving in the Military

Anyone with connections to military service knows about the sacrifices such a commitment requires of both the individual in the military and his/her family. Being away from home and loved ones for extended periods with restricted communication is likely to create stress in close relationships and can loosen the bonds of married couples. This stress is even higher when the individual is serving in a combat zone. Unfortunately, these prolonged separations sometimes lead to divorce, and recent tabulations of divorce rates among active military personnel show that while the rate is declining, it is still higher now than it was 15 years ago. Obviously, divorcing while on active duty presents unique challenges that can make the divorce process a little more complicated, but federal and state laws are in place to help military personnel make this transition by affording them special protections and exceptions to certain rules. An overview of how a military divorce differs from a civilian dissolution will follow below.

Procedural Issues

Typically, a divorce petition is filed in a person’s resident state, but active members in the military often do not have stable residency since many live on military bases and are subject to transfer on a regular basis. Consequently, many states, Florida included, will allow military personnel to file for divorce once he/she is stationed at a base for at least six months. Further, if the person lived in Florida prior to the start of military service, and intends to return to the state after his/her service is over, the individual can claim Florida residency for purposes of filing a divorce petition. Of course, if the other spouse lives in Florida, he/she always has the option of filing here.

In addition, because military personnel run the risk of missing filing deadlines due to delayed communication, federal law permits courts to delay proceedings until the active service member’s tour of duty is over, which includes the 60 day period following deployment. This law prevents a court from granting divorce without the knowledge of the individual in the military. Military personnel always have the right to waive this delay if they are the party instigating the divorce proceedings.

Child Custody

Further, once a divorce is granted, the other party cannot petition for modification of parental time-sharing and/or custody if the person in the military is on active duty, which will affect his/her ability to comply with any changes to the established arrangement. In these situations, courts cannot issue new orders related to child custody or time-sharing schedules while the person is on active duty, although judges can order temporary modifications if it is in the best interest of the child.

Property Division

Finally, when it comes to property division, the majority of a couple’s assets and liabilities will be divided according to Florida law, including military retirement benefits for the time the parties were married in which the spouse was in the military, regardless of the time married.  There is a federal law that limits the right of the non-military spouse to the military member’s retirement benefits if the couple was married for at least 10 years, and the military member served for at least 10 years during the same period.  However, Florida law supersedes this law and the amount determined will be paid directly to the former spouse, and not through the military.

Talk to a Divorce Attorney

Going through a divorce is a stressful event in and of itself, but when combined with military service, it quickly becomes overwhelming. Working with an attorney knowledgeable in the law that applies to military divorces is critical to protecting your rights and obtaining a divorce in a timely manner. The Tampa Bay law firm of All Family Law Group, P.A. has the necessary skill in these matters, and can help you through this process.  Contact the Tampa divorce attorneys and family lawyers at All Family Law Group, P.A. in Tampa Bay at 813-816-2232 for a consultation at no charge or email us.

By Lynette Silon-Laguna Google+

All Family Law Group, P.A.
The law firm of All Family Law Group (Lynette Silon-Laguna, P.A.) provides legal services to the cities of Tampa, Clearwater, Brandon, Riverview, Lakeland, Valrico, Gibsonton, Lithia, Mango, Palm River, Plant City, Seffner, Sun City Center, Apollo Beach, Ruskin, Temple Terrace, Carrollwood, Thonotosassa, Lutz, FishHawk, MacDill Air Force Base, and all of Hillsborough, Pinellas & Polk Counties.

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