Military Divorce In Florida
Divorcing a spouse who is on active duty in the military can present difficulties that would not otherwise be present in civilian divorce proceedings. Although the grounds for divorce are the same, several special issues of service of process, default, custody orders, support orders and property division are unique to a military marriage.
Florida’s Jurisdiction & Service of Process
To establish Florida’s jurisdiction over the military divorce, two preliminary matters must be met. First, one partner must reside or be stationed in Florida at the time of filing. Second, the active duty spouse must be personally served with a summons and copy of the divorce. In an uncontested case, the active duty spouse can file an affidavit acknowledging the divorce action.
Protection From Default
In a civilian divorce, the respondent can find himself in a default judgment by failing to respond to a divorce action in a timely manner. For active duty spouses that are deployed at the time of filing, this presents a unique problem because they may not be able to respond in the time allotted by the court. Under the Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act, Florida judges can postpone divorce proceedings until the service member returns from duty and up to 60 days after his or her return.
Pension and Benefit Division
Outside of Florida’s laws directing the division of marital property, the property of military couples is further regulated by the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act, which specifies how military benefits, including commissary, exchange, health care benefits, and the service member’s pension, can be distributed. It also provides for transitional health coverage and limited base privileges in certain cases.
This act specifically allows the state of divorce to treat military disposable retired pay as marital property and divisible in a divorce action. This act allows Florida courts to treat military retired pay as any other pension plan and subject to garnishments to satisfy other financial divorce obligations.
The Survivor Benefit Plan is also unique to military marriages. This program provides a monthly payment to a specified individual upon the service member’s death. The individual selected as the service member’s Survivor Benefit Recipient can be changed throughout the course of the spouse’s service. Whether or not a former spouse is to remain as the Survivor Benefit Recipient is important to enumerate in the marital settlement agreement.
Service members often have relocation concerns that other civilian couples do not. Permanent Change of Station Orders (PCS) dictate when and where service members are stationed for years at a time. In terms of child custody, this may require military spouses to adapt their parenting agreements to accommodate a long-distance time sharing schedule. Florida allows for temporary relocation requests and provides a final hearing on those issues within 90 days of filing, thus allowing the active duty service member to get a court’s ruling on custody issues before leaving on orders.
Military service members are paid a higher rate of compensation when they are deployed versus when they are stationed at home. These two rates of pay need to be considered when evaluating how often the active duty spouse is deployed. If the active spouse is deployed frequently, the court may raise alimony and child support amounts to take this higher pay rate into consideration.
How Do I Protect Myself & My Family in My Military Divorce?
The Tampa divorce attorneys at All Family Law Group, P.A. have the skills necessary to take you through your military divorce. Our office is knowledgeable in the area of military divorce and can help you throughout the process. Contact the Tampa 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+