Military Divorce Cases are Different

Not all Law Firms are Created Equal

Tampa Military Divorce Attorney

Many issues in a divorce are more complicated when one or both spouses are active duty military. If your divorce involves military issues, an experienced Tampa Military Divorce Attorneys like Scott P. Davis should represent you in court.

Jurisdictional Issues

Military divorces often involve jurisdictional issues.  Military personnel stationed in Florida may call another state “home.” Florida has special rules governing jurisdiction in a divorce cases.  The attorney you choose should be familiar with these special rules.  Often, Florida residents are stationed elsewhere as a result of their military assignment. Regardless of where the servicemember resides, issues concerning child custody are usually resolved in the state where the child or children have lived for the past six months based on the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act.

The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act provides special protection for military personnel who are on active duty.  For example, a party cannot obtain a default judgment against a servicemember without the appointment of an attorney ad litem.

Even after a military divorce case is “off the ground,” the servicemember may be deployed to a location where he or she cannot effectively participate in the case.  Attorney-client communications can be difficult during a deployment overseas.  A competent Tampa military divorce attorney will know how to have the case put on hold during this period.  But it is critical to get certain documents from the servicemember’s command before the unit deploys.

Financial Support

Every branch of the military has its own regulations concerning family support. These military regulations operate in the absence of an agreement or court order. Many divorce attorneys do not even think of contacting the servicemember’s chain of command to enforce a support obligation under the military regulations.

When the court is tasked with establishing child support or alimony, the military pay system also presents special issues.  Money paid to servicemembers that is designated as “pay” is typically taxable.  Examples include basic pay, combat pay, hazardous duty pay, and flight pay.  Military “allowances” are typically tax free but still count as “income.”  Housing allowances, subsistence allowances, cost of living adjustments, disability pay, and per diem payments cause significant confusion, even among experienced judges and attorneys.

Does a per diem allowance or cost of living adjustment increase a servicemember’s “income” for purposes of determining child support?  It depends on whether these payments reduce the servicemember’s cost of living.  Your Tampa military divorce attorneys must fully understand all of these issues at the beginning of your case.  Otherwise, you will have to pay him or her to research the law.  More importantly, if your attorney doesn’t do their homework, then your rights may be compromised.

Equitable Distribution and Military Retired Pay

In Florida, the division of marital assets is known as “equitable distribution.”  Your attorney must know how to divide a servicemember’s right to military retired pay.  Many attorneys do not know that a servicemember’s spouse is eligible for direct payment from the United States government if the spouse has 10 years of marriage overlapping with 10 years of active duty military service (this is known as the “10/10 rule”).  The 10/10 Rule is measured from the date of marriage to the date that the final judgment is entered.

Your Tampa military divorce attorneys should also understand whether the Survivor Benefit Plan is the best means to insure the spouse’s interest in the service member’s military retirement.  Many attorneys also overlook certain assets.  Is there a thrift savings plan?  Did your attorney advise you that military “leave” is a marital asset that can be valued and taken into account in the equitable distribution scheme.  If you are the servicemember, did your attorney mention that this “asset” is not subject to distribution if you have previously cashed in or sold back your leave?

Post 9-11 GI Bill

Disputes over benefits under the Post 9-11 GI Bill are increasing in military divorces.  Congress has enacted a statute expressly stating that the Post 9-11 GI Bill is not subject to equitable distribution.

Even though it is not part of the “marital estate” or subject to equitable distribution, the Post 9-11 GI Bill can be tremendously useful in settling a military divorce case.  Many servicemembers will voluntarily sign over their right to the GI Bill benefits in lieu of paying more alimony or dividing the military retirement.

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Our team based in Tampa practices divorce and family law throughout Florida, but primarily represents clients in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, and Polk counties.  Wherever you need an expert attorney who is Board Certified in Marital and Family Law, we stand ready to help .  We thank you for taking the time to review our website. If you have questions, or would like to schedule a consultation at our Tampa office, please contact us at (813) 251-6222.

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