If you are currently serving the nation as a member of the military, or are married to someone who is, certain challenges may arise if you are considering divorce. Before you take any sort of formal action, it is typically best to seek the clarification of state and federal laws, and military rules, that directly pertain to your divorce.
Divorce is seldom easy, and various aspects regarding residency, spousal support and other issues as they pertain to military members are best addressed with an attorney who has experience in this area. In the meantime, reviewing some of the following issues may be helpful.
Divorce papers and active duty
Generally speaking, divorce in the military is not any more or less complicated than the dissolution of marriage between civilians. However, the list below summarizes certain requirements and rules concerning service of process and filing for divorce that directly relate to military service:
- Residency matters: State laws vary on where a military divorce can be filed. Options may include filing in the state where the service member has legal residency, in the state where the service member is stationed or in the state where either spouse lives.
- Active duty members are protected: The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) typically protects any person on active duty from divorce proceedings.
- SCRA protection often extends past active duty: At the discretion of the court, the protection provided by this act carries over up to 60 days past a service member's active duty tour.
The average military mission requires full-time focus; Thus, it can be very stressful to be facing challenges regarding divorce or the accompanying proceedings during this time. A quick call to an experienced family law attorney who has assisted other military families may help alleviate some of your worries and provide guidance as you formulate a definitive plan.
It is understandable that you may have many concerns when facing divorce as a military family. Another frequently asked question is whether military pensions and benefits are affected by divorce. Again, much depends on individual state laws.
No set formula for pension division or benefits
The Uniform Services Former Spouses' Protection Act allows state courts to treat military retirement pay as sole or community property. Each state varies as to how such determinations are made. General guidelines often include length of marriage, as follows:
- 10 years of marriage or less: Most states use a "10 year rule" when determining whether the former spouse receives pay from the Defense Finance and Accounting Service or directly from the retiring military service member.
- 20 years of marriage or more: Divorced spouses of former military members may be eligible for full commissary, medical and exchange benefits.
Typically, final decisions also depend on how many years of marriage overlapped the military spouse's service.
You can seek information regarding specific Florida guidelines or answers to any other questions you have about divorce and the military by requesting a meeting with an experienced family law attorney who can provide sound counsel and guidance to help protect your best interests and obtain an agreeable outcome.