Military life and deployments are hard on a marriage. Just as there are factors unique to military service that can lead to divorce, there are also special laws and circumstances that are unique to military divorce.
If you are ending your marriage and either you or your spouse is a member of the military, you need a divorce lawyer who is experienced in handling military divorce cases. In addition to such issues as child custody and visitation, spousal support, and division of debts and assets, military divorce can affect military pension and retirement benefits, survivor benefits, and more.
A military divorce attorney with Florida Law Advisers, P.A., in Tampa, can help make your divorce a less disruptive experience and advocate for your interests throughout the process. If you are considering divorce and either you or your spouse serves in the U.S. military, call Florida Law Advisers to schedule a free consultation with an experienced military divorce lawyer.
Why Choose Florida Law Advisers, P.A. for a Military Divorce
Florida Law Advisers, P.A., is a full-service law firm serving clients in Tampa, Hillsborough County, Orlando, and throughout Central Florida. Our attorneys understand that the outcome of your military divorce could affect your financial stability and family relations for years to come. That’s why we work hard to provide personalized legal services that meet each client’s unique needs when we handle divorces for armed service members.
Our mission is to deliver high-quality legal representation at a reasonable cost. We understand that clients need solutions, not steep legal fees. We’re proud to have helped thousands of Florida residents take the steps necessary to have a better future.
Our Florida military divorce attorneys have the knowledge and experience to help you resolve the most sensitive and complex legal issues. No matter how difficult your situation may seem, we will be there for you every step of the way, ensuring you understand your legal rights and options.
Jurisdiction for a Military Divorce in Florida
Deployment can post a service member to any of the 50 U.S. states or to a military base overseas. Suppose either spouse is a physical resident of Florida for at least six months immediately preceding the day they file for divorce in the state. In that case, the case can move forward under Florida law.
A military member temporarily deployed to another state who intends to return to Florida may file for divorce in Florida if they resided in Florida for six months before the current deployment.
Under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, a military member who has been served with divorce papers has the right to postpone the proceedings if they are on active duty. Typically, a spouse has 20 days to respond to a divorce filing, or they default, allowing the court to proceed with the other spouse’s demands unchallenged. However, a service member may have divorce proceedings postponed for the entire time they are on active duty and for up to 60 days thereafter. Conversely, the service member may waive these rights and proceed with the divorce.
The divorce may be further complicated if you have underage children and their custody is disputed. The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, which is guidance for local family law courts, recommends decisions based on where the children physically reside instead of the state that may be considered either or both parents’ legal residence.
Florida may not have jurisdiction over a person who never resided in Florida though their military-member spouse is a Florida resident or was a temporary Florida resident due to a deployment here. In such a case, the military member may have their marriage dissolved under Florida law. But their nonresident spouse could not be held to the court’s decisions regarding child custody, division of property, or spousal support (alimony).
If your or your spouse’s status as a Florida resident is a question, you should speak to a Florida military divorce attorney about the most efficient means for moving ahead with your divorce plans.
Military Pension and Retirement Benefits in Military Divorce
By enacting the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act, the federal government decided that state courts could treat disposable military retired pay as divisible property in divorce cases. Disability pay is excluded and cannot be divided in a divorce settlement.
The law does not require courts to divide retired pay. Still, it allows judges to award a share of retired pay to the other spouse under the general rules they would apply to a civilian’s pension or other factors they consider reasonable.
The Act also allows a former spouse to receive direct payments from the uniformed services (Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Space Force, and Coast Guard) of up to 50% of a service member’s or former member’s disposable retired pay – or up to 65% if necessary to make alimony or child support payments.
To obtain direct payments, the nonmilitary spouse must meet the “10/10 rule” – there must have been at least ten years of marriage that overlap with ten years of service. Direct payment precludes the risk of an ex-spouse not making payments, which the court may order regardless of the length of the marriage.
Child support and alimony can be taken from retired pay under a separate garnishment system that follows the same rules as civilian garnishment. The 10/10 rule does not apply to alimony or child support.
If you need support after a divorce or to make sure an ex-spouse receives only what is appropriate, you will need a lawyer experienced with military divorces to guide you through negotiations. Our attorneys can also draft and oversee the adoption of a qualified domestic relations order if necessary to ensure an “alternate payee’s” right to receive retirement benefits.
Military Survivor Benefits in a Divorce
Retired service members may be enrolled in the Survivor Benefit Plan. The plan is an annuity that allows retired service members to provide continued income to a named beneficiary in the event of the retiree’s death. When a service member retires, their spouse is automatically named as the beneficiary. The service member who is divorcing needs to contact the Defense Finance and Accounting Service to change the beneficiary of their SBP payment.
Because SBF benefits are considered assets, a divorce settlement could require the service member to continue to provide SBP payments to their ex-spouse. However, a court-ordered settlement alone is not enough to ensure the nonmilitary ex-spouse receives payments. The beneficiary must make a deemed election request within the specified time. Failure to follow the strict guidelines could result in the nonmilitary spouse forfeiting his or her rights to the benefit. Our attorneys can make sure this does not happen to you.
Get in Touch with Our Tampa Military Divorce Lawyers
When military service members divorce in Florida, much of what is required falls under Florida divorce law and procedure. But, specific federal statutes also directly affect the divorce process and the final divorce order. This makes military divorces more complicated and more likely to cause you lasting financial harm if you are not properly represented from the start of the divorce proceedings.
Our Tampa divorce attorneys at Florida Law Advisors, P.A., are passionate about protecting your rights in a military divorce. We work closely with each person we represent to ensure individualized attention. We will help you understand what to expect during the divorce process and afterward. Regardless of whether you expect a contested, uncontested, or collaborative divorce, we can help you and protect your rights. Contact us online now or at (800) 990-7763 in Tampa for a free initial consultation.