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Top 3 things to understand about military divorce

Getting a divorce when one spouse is a member of the armed forces can be a bit different than going through a traditional, civilian divorce proceeding.

There are federal laws enacted that govern certain aspects of a military divorce. Here are a few worth noting:

1. Postponement

In a civilian divorce, a court can enter a divorce judgment by default if one spouse simply fails to respond to the other spouse's divorce petition.

However, this is not possible if one spouse is in the military. Under the Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act, service members in active duty cannot be penalized for failing to respond to a divorce action. In fact, if a member is in duty or at war, the divorce can be simply postponed until he or she is no longer active.

2. Division of military pensions

In Florida, the division of retirement benefits in a divorce, including pensions, is traditionally divvied based on the principle of equitable distribution. However, under the Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act, there are limitations when it comes to dividing military pensions.

In general terms, the law states that a distribution of retirement benefits is only allowed if the parties were married for at least 10 years while the military spouse was in active duty.

If this premise is met and the spouse has yet to retire or receive benefits, a judge may include a future award in the decree, or in exchange, award other types of property to the nonmilitary spouse.

3. Disability benefits

When it comes to dividing military retirement benefits, only a veteran's "disposable retired pay" qualifies for division. Disability pay benefits awarded to service members who have retired from service due to an injury or illness during active duty cannot be included in the disposable retired pay amount used for calculating pension or retirement benefit distribution in a divorce.

More questions?

The laws and procedures regarding military divorce is complex. Those with questions pertaining to specific situations are encouraged to consult with an experienced family law attorney with knowledge of military laws as they pertain to divorce and other family law matters.

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