Military Divorce in Florida

When a person wants to get divorced from his/her spouse and the spouse is a member of the military, there are factors and issues that come into play that are different from and in addition to those present in a non-military, purely civilian divorce. Overall, the law is set up to protect servicemembers who are actively serving from having default judgments entered against them. In other words, certain procedural steps need to occur to ensure that the divorce does not occur without the servicemember’s knowledge and/or participation.

Applicable Law

In addition to Florida state law, federal law also governs military divorces. Under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (50 U.S.C. §§ 501-597b), for instance, a party serving in the military may have the divorce proceedings postponed as long as the person is serving and for up to 60 days after service ends. The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act protects members of the military who are actively serving from having default judgments entered against them. Also, under certain circumstances, the military party may have an attorney appointed to them.

Jurisdiction and Residency Requirements

Like a civilian divorce, either party to the marriage must either live in Florida or be stationed in Florida.

For a Florida court to have jurisdiction over the spouse who is actively serving in the military, the summons and divorce petition must be personally served on the servicemember. This ensures that the servicemember spouse has knowledge of the divorce proceedings. (Although, the servicemember can waive personal service, particularly in the case of the servicemember not wishing to contest the divorce. In this case, personal service is not required, however, the servicemember would need to sign an affidavit acknowledging the divorce proceedings and voluntarily waiving service).

Grounds for Divorce

Again, like a civilian divorce, neither party has to show that the other party caused the marriage to fail. Florida is a “no fault” state. The Florida laws pertaining to grounds for a divorce apply to both civilian and military divorces. The two grounds for divorce in Florida are: (1) the marriage is “irretrievably broken”; or (2) the mental incapacity of one of the spouses.

Division of Property

The one aspect that arises in all military divorces is the civilian spouse’s right to receive a portion of the servicemember’s pension. In addition to Florida state law, federal law provides requirements as to how the servicemember’s pension will be divided. Specifically, the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act (10 U.S.C. § 1408) provides how a servicemember’s pension is to be divided in a divorce. The law gives the Florida court the discretion to treat the servicemember’s pension as the servicemember’s sole property, as marital property, or a combination of sole and marital property.

In addition, the federal law allows payment of pension benefits to go to the civilian spouse directly from the government (from the Defense Finance and Accounting Service) only if the couple has been married for over 10 years and the 10 years occurred while the servicemember was actively serving.

Speak with a Family Law Attorney Now

If you have been served with divorce papers and you or your spouse is a member of the military, you should immediately contact an experienced Tampa family law attorney at Bubley & Bubley, P.A. Our attorneys have the knowledge of military divorce law to help you get through this difficult time and process.

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