What is Different about a Military Divorce?
Although a military divorce is not necessarily more complicated than a traditional divorce, it is important to understand that there are several different state and federal laws that may apply to your case. For example, the former protections of the Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act (SSCRA) have since been expanded and restated in the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) to give active service members the time that they will need to carry out their military obligations. This means that certain civil obligations can be postponed by the court for up to 60 days following active duty—which may include pending divorce proceedings, outstanding debt and even taxes. Service members must also be personally served with a summons in order to protect them from a default judgment, as it was previously not uncommon for members of the military to be involved in a divorce without even realizing it.
If they are stationed in the United States, this typically wouldn't be a problem. When the service member is stationed overseas or they are deployed in a time of war, however, this can complicate the process. The non-military spouse can request that military authorities serve the active member with a petition for divorce, but they can refuse to accept it. Since it is unlikely that the court will send someone overseas, the spouse may need to wait until their husband or wife comes home before they can legally initiate the divorce. Once both spouses are able to participate, they will then need to determine whether or not they are even eligible to file for divorce in the state. Residency requirements in Florida mandate that the non-military spouse must reside in the state in which the active service member is stationed—but this does not necessarily mean that they must be a legal resident.
Next, the couple will need to determine whether or not the non-military spouse is entitled to military benefits. In order to do so, they must examine the requirements of the 20/20/20 Rule and the Ten-Year Rule. The 20/20/20 Rule would only apply to a couple in which one is a retired veteran and the other is a dependent spouse. It mandates that the couple must have been married for a minimum of nearly 25 years, that the retired veteran must have served with the military for a minimum of 20 years and that the marriage must have overlapped with the term of active service for a minimum of 20 years in order for the dependent spouse to be entitled to full military benefits. The Ten-Year Rule requires the couple to have been married for at least 10 years during the time that the service member was on duty in order for the dependent spouse to recover a share of the military pension from the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS).
If 10 years of marriage do not coincide with 10 years of service, the military spouse will be responsible for paying their former spouse a designated share. Since the state and federal laws that regulate military divorce are numerous, however, you should not hesitate to enlist the help of an experienced legal professional if you have been faced with a similar situation. With the help of a Jacksonville divorce attorney from Charles E. Willmott, P.A., you can ensure that your rights will be upheld throughout the entire process—whether you are an active or retired service member or you are the spouse of an active or retired service member. For this reason, we ask you to contact our firm today at (904) 849-5183 if you are interested in learning more.