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Military Divorce Laws

May 14, 2015

The divorce process is complex, but it is even more complicated if one of the divorcing spouses is a member of the military. Though the grounds for divorce do not change if one spouse is in the military, there are several important differences. If you or your spouse is a service member, and you decide to get a divorce, it is essential to understand the differences between a civilian and a military divorce.


The first issue in any divorce is jurisdiction, or determining where to file for divorce. For most couples, the issue of jurisdiction is relatively simple—they file in the state in which they live. However, military couples move frequently, and so Florida law provides more options for jurisdiction. A couple may file for divorce in Florida if:

Servicemembers Civil Relief Act

Federal law provides that, if military service prevents a spouse from participating in the legal proceedings of a divorce, the military member can request a stay, or delay, of the divorce proceedings until he or she becomes available. Often, a service member can have the proceedings postponed until 60 days after returning from active duty, usually if the service was overseas or in a war.

Child Custody

For military families, child custody issues are complicated by deployment and frequent moves. There are specific rules for custody when one parent is deployed or otherwise unable to care for the child. If a service member has a child under the age of 19, and has custody of the child, whether full or partial, a Family Care Plan is required. The Family Care Plan outlines what happens to the child if the parent is deployed or absent.

For military parents, frequent moves are unavoidable, which creates some problems for child custody. In Florida, parents who want to relocate more than 50 miles away and who have any timesharing with their children must either obtain consent from the other parent or get the court’s permission. To determine whether relocation will be permitted, the court examines the best interests of the child.

Deployment creates some additional problems for divorced parents. If one parent is currently deployed, the other parent cannot make any permanent changes to the parenting plan during the deployment. However, some temporary changes may be made, as long as the change is in the child’s best interest. Additionally, if a military parent is deployed for at least 90 days, he or she may designate a family member, stepparent, or relative by marriage as the caretaker of child. Notice of the designation must be given in writing to the other parent at least 10 days before deployment.

Child Support and Alimony

In Florida, there is a rebuttable presumption against awarding alimony for marriages of less than seven years. However, the presumption may be rebutted if there are special circumstances. One special circumstance may be one spouse giving up a career in order to support the other spouse’s career, which often happens in the military.

Under Florida law, child support plus alimony may not exceed 60 percent of a military spouse’s total pay and allowances. However, the military has some rules and sanctions for the failure to make support payments.

If you are going through a divorce, it is essential to understand the laws pertaining to your situation. Please contact West Palm Beach family law attorney William Wallshein for a free initial consultation.

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