A divorce involving a member of the military carries with it unique legal issues and it can be confusing, and complicated for members of the military and their spouses. To begin with, service members are entitled to certain protections under the Service Members Civil Relief Act of 2003. These protections, among other things, regulate whether or not a member of the military can be compelled to appear in court, for example. Federal regulations also speak to the issue of what state is the “state of residence” for the service member. If, as a service member, you were a resident of Florida and are now living elsewhere as a result of a military assignment, you are still considered a resident of Florida for the purposes of obtaining a divorce. The effect of this regulation is that you can file for divorce here in Florida, even while living elsewhere, which will make your divorce subject to the laws of Florida. Nonetheless, there are certain federal statutes and regulations that may also be applicable to your divorce.
For example, military pensions and retirement pay are impacted by whether you have served for 10 years with 10 years of marriage or fall into the 20-15, 20-20 or 30-30 categories. Further, it is the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act that permits states to classify military retirement pay as property, as opposed to income, which subjects it to equitable distribution by the divorce courts.
The USFSPA also requires the military to comply child support and spousal support rulings by state courts, which means your attorney needs to have a full understanding of how the USFSPA impacts your divorce case.
In addition to military pension and retirement issues, military divorces can also involve complex medical insurance issues. In the area of health care benefits, if you are neither a 20/20/20 nor a 20/20/15 former spouse, you will not be entitled to any military health benefits after your divorce, dissolution or annulment is final. However, you can receive health care coverage through the DoD Continued Health Care Benefit Program, a premium-based temporary health care coverage program, for 36 months of coverage until alternative coverage can be obtained. Your children, however, can typically remain covered by TriCare until they are 21 years old.
Another common area of confusion with regards to military divorces is the issue of Survivor Benefit Plans. Survivor’s benefits must be negotiated separately under the regulations related to military divorces as they are not automatically included in pension distributions. With as many complex variables as there are, simple mistakes made in resolving divorce cases involving a service member can become very expensive over the years that follow the divorce.
Finally, of course, there are the children’s issues. Do we need to develop a long distance parenting plan? How do we facilitate contact between parent and child during deployment? What do we do with the children who live with you while you are on deployment? All of these questions require innovative and creative solutions in order to ensure that the parent/child relationship continues to thrive during military service.
State courts with jurisdiction over dependent children or a state agency with the proper authority can order child support payments. Alimony payments can also be ordered by the court and satisfied through a garnishment order submitted to DFAS. The allotment will go into effect 30 days after the notice was sent to the military member by DFAS. You must obtain the garnishment order from a state court over the military member and provide it to DFAS. An overview of the garnishment process is available on the DFAS website.
Child support can additionally be secured through what is known as a statutory allotment. Statutory allotments are initiated by a complainant parent, state agency, or private attorney, who can establish a support obligation greater or equal to two months.
Hire a Clearwater Military Divorce Lawyer from Our Firm
As a Board Certified Expert in Martial and Family Law, Mr. Williams, has learned how to deal with the various issues and complications that can arise in a divorce case involving a member of the United States military. Our firm is known for providing care for our clients. We can stay by your side through every step of your divorce. You will have the support of your attorney as well as a qualified team of associates. Contact us right away for more information (727) 531-8737!