Florida Military Divorce Attorney
There are certain issues that could arise from a divorce involving one spouse that is in the military. Steven D. Miller, P.A. understands the complicated issues surrounding this type of divorce and can provide fair fee advice for you. Steven D. Miller is a Florida military divorce attorney that serves counties all over Florida including Broward, Palm Beach, Miami-Dade, and Sarasota.
Jurisdiction for Florida Military Divorce
The first issue in any Florida divorce for members of the military is whether Florida courts have jurisdiction, or legal power, over the marriage and personal jurisdiction – ex: power to make rulings directly against the non-filing party.
Like civilian divorces, members of the military are subject to the same jurisdictional requirement in order for the Florida courts to have jurisdiction over your marriage and the power to dissolve it; specifically, one party must be a resident for at least 6 months prior to the filing date. If you or your spouse are physically in Florida for 6 months prior to filing, no problem – Florida has jurisdiction over the subject – your marriage – and the power to enter a final judgment of dissolution. What about a member of the military whose “home state” is Florida but is deployed in another state or country? If deployed in another state, albeit on a temporary basis, and you meet the jurisdictional requirements for that state, you can either file in that state or Florida, assuming you were a 6 month Florida resident prior to being deployed with the intention of returning to Florida after completion of the deployment.
Deployment & Overseas Divorce
What about an overseas deployment? If you were a Florida resident prior to deployment, the Florida courts have jurisdiction over your marriage and the power to enter a final judgment of dissolution. What about the military member who is a Florida resident either prior to deployment or if Florida is their temporary residence as a result of a Florida deployment but whose spouse never resided in Florida? Florida would have jurisdiction over the marriage but may not have any power over the spouse; meaning, that the court may lack the legal authority to divide property, award spousal support (should the military member filing in Florida be seeking alimony). The same problem presents itself when there are children of the marriage. Jurisdiction over child custody in conjunction with a military divorce can be complicated which is one reason why retaining a Florida divorce lawyer is important. You do not want to proceed to a final hearing only to have the judge tell you that the Florida court does not have the inherent power over your marriage or some other issue that needs to be resolved. One final note about jurisdiction, military or not; where you got married makes no difference and is not an issue when seeking to get a Florida divorce. Generally speaking, our military clients file in Florida because it is the most convenient place for them to get divorced regardless of where they may be on a temporary basis.
Protection from Florida Divorce Proceedings While in the Military
If you are a member of the military and have been properly served with divorce papers, you may be entitled to a “stay” of the proceedings (i.e., a temporary stoppage of the proceedings) due to your military service. In my experience, I have never filed a motion for stay in a military divorce case; just never had the need to do so. Like most people, members of the military just want their case resolved as quickly and cost effectively as possible.
That said, if you are a member of the military, have been served papers and want to avoid being “defaulted” because you do not respond within the allotted 20 days from service, there is help. There are federal laws established under the Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act and in the discretion of the local Florida court, that the divorce proceeding may be postponed for the entire time the active service member is on duty and for up to 60 days thereafter. Like most other rights, this provision can be waived if the military member, like most other folks in a similar situation, just wants to get the issues resolved so that a final judgment of dissolution can be entered.
Service of Process on an Active Military Spouse
In an uncontested dissolution, formal service of process (i.e., when a sheriff or process server personally hands the papers to the party or a resident where he/she resides that is over the age of 15) is not necessary. Why? Because you and your spouse have agreed how to resolve all issues over which Florida has jurisdiction and have executed and filed all required documents.
On the other hand, in a contested divorce case, service of process is required. A person authorized to deliver legal documents must do so in accordance with the laws of the state where the person is located. If the military member is overseas, service of process gets complicated. Again, in my many years of practice I have never been forced to serve a military member out of the country. Once reconciled to the fact that their spouse wants to dissolve the marriage, common sense takes over and they do what is necessary to make the process go as smoothly and cost effectively as possible.
Additional Issues in Military Divorce
Military divorces are no different than non-military regarding the issues that need to be resolved: property, debt, children and spousal support all must be addressed in the parties’ marital settlement agreement. That said, there are unique property issues for members of the military; how to divide the military pension; how to determine income for purposes of child support calculation and spousal support; how do you establish a parenting plan while military member is deployed in another state or country; what to do when military member gets transferred to another state after a parenting plan has been implemented and ratified by the court?
The 10/10 rule: 10 years of military service that overlaps 10 years of marriage entitles the military spouse to direct payment from the government, an item that many attorneys simply miss.
What about preparation of a QDRO (qualified domestics relations order) to divide certain assets? How is retirement pay calculated and who makes that calculation? As for preparation of the QDRO, military or not, it is a highly complex and technical document. Most lawyers are ill equipped to deal with preparation of a QDRO and, for that reason, refer clients to outside experts. Yes, there is an additional cost (sometimes divided by the parties and usually around $500.00) but is well worth it to make sure the QDRO is prepared properly and will be accepted by the military and/or plan administrator.
The Survivor Benefit Plan may be the best way to insure the spouse’s interest in the service member’s military retirement plan. A thrift savings plan, if any, as well as accrued military leave may be marital assets subject to equitable distribution.
As with all legal issues, military folks should seek legal counsel with an experienced military divorce attorney Steven D. Miller in order to make sure that the issues are properly addressed in the marital settlement agreement.
“When it’s time to leave . . . Call Steve.”