Going through the process of filing for divorce is a daunting task, as considerations must be made in terms of household financial responsibilities, debt management, child care, and potential relocation. Each of these factors in managing your divorce before, during, and after filing can be even more complicated when you or your spouse is a member of the military. At Beller & Bustamante, we work with clients every day to ensure the process of their military divorce goes as smoothly as possible. To help you understand some of your options and the special considerations that should be made, we have compiled this brief guide to obtaining a military divorce in Florida.
In most cases, deciding where to file for divorce is not a complex task, as options for either spouse are limited to current or recent past residency. However, a service member or military spouse is allowed certain residency exemptions, creating an opportunity to file in one of the following:
- The state where the service member is currently stationed
- The state where the service member has permanent residency (home state)
- The state where property is owned
- The state where the service member and spouse last lived as a married couple
It is important to understand how the divorce laws in each applicable state vary so that your needs and desires throughout the divorce process are adequately met.
Division of Assets
In addition to where to file, considerations must be made as to the division of assets. In the state of Florida, marital assets are those acquired during the course of the marriage, and fall under equitable distribution guidelines. This means that military retirement benefits, value of the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP), and any other savings or investments accumulated during the marriage may be split between the service member and the military spouse equally. Here are the most pressing points as it relates to division of marital assets in a military divorce:
- Entitlement to pension funds – These are only applicable when the service member and spouse have been married a minimum of 10 years, and military service took place for at least 10 years during the marriage. A spouse can opt to receive a portion of pension benefits direct from the military, or an upfront distribution can be made in some cases.
- TSP assets – Contributions to the TSP are not a requirement, but instead are voluntarily made by the service member throughout the course of a military career. If contributions were made during the marriage, a military spouse is entitled to an equitable distribution of the present account value.
Military divorces are unique in that the non-service member spouse often gives up opportunities for education or career in order to support and relocate with an active duty service member. In Florida, a presumption is made against the necessity for alimony unless the marriage lasted seven years or longer. However, special considerations are made in calculating what amount of spousal support may be due based on the extreme circumstances surrounding military life, especially when sacrifices in career paths and other life choices have been made.
Under the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Relief Act, active duty service members have the opportunity to delay divorce proceedings if they are currently in training or deployed. The divorce process can be lengthy, as there is a requirement to gather discovery documents or dispositions from the service member, the military spouse, or both. In order to provide for the extreme schedules and location restrictions some active duty service members face, some information may be transferred electronically to avoid training or deployment delays. However, a service member has an obligation to keep his or her attorney aware of new orders or changes to scheduling to ensure the divorce process is not unnecessarily prolonged.
Speak with Knowledgeable Family Law Attorneys in Florida
At Beller & Bustamante, we know how challenging it is to fully understand each of your options in filing and going through the process of a military divorce. We work diligently with our military clients to ensure they are making the best decisions for themselves and their families before, during, and after a divorce. If you have questions about your options for a military divorce in Florida, contact us today.