Military Divorce in Florida
- What is a military divorce?
- Military member rights
- Grounds for divorce
- How to file in Florida
- Issues settled in Florida military divorce
- Time frame and cost
A military divorce involves the legal separation of one or two people who participate in the U.S. Armed Forces. All divorces like this are processed by courts, including those in Florida.
If you or your spouse are in the military and your primary residence is in Florida, you can file for divorce and use special processes designed for military couples. You’ll use a mixture of state laws and military rules to end your marriage equitably.
What is a military divorce?
A military divorce is a legal break-up affecting a military couple with one or two military members. These splits can be more complicated than those between people who aren’t in the military.
In a traditional Florida divorce, people use state laws to end their marriages. If you can collaborate with your spouse, you could split without spending weeks in a courtroom.
Military divorces, including those initiated in Florida, are different. You must comply with both state and military regulations. And protections mean these divorces can take much longer than their civilian counterparts.
What rights do military members have?
The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) offers protection against legal transactions during military service. Rules like this ensure that someone serving the country can’t lose something critical (like a house or access to a bank account) because they can’t defend their case in court.
Advocates say the SCRA allows servicemembers to focus exclusively on serving the country, not worrying about cases at home. But military spouses might claim that these regulations needlessly slow down their cases.
If you’ve opened a case against a military member, you can’t ask the court for a default judgment. In other words, you can’t ask the court to take your side because your partner isn’t responding. Instead, your case works at the pace of the military, and it could take a long time to resolve.
What are the grounds for a Florida military divorce?
Florida is a no-fault state. You’re not required to prove that anyone did anything wrong to file for divorce. Instead, you tell the court your marriage is broken and can’t be fixed. That’s enough to start the process of divorce.
Military courts don’t require spouses to cite grounds, either. Military rules may dictate how long the case takes and how many steps are required, but they don’t change the grounds for your split.
How do you file for a military divorce in Florida?
The filing procedure for a Florida divorce is the same whether your partner is in the military or not. But some steps are slightly harder to accomplish when one party is serving the country. Here’s what you need to do:
1. Determine if Florida is the right place to file
Military couples move often. You may have a state you consider your birth home, another you’ve lived in briefly, and a third that represents where you want to spend the rest of your life.
Your legal residence is defined as the state in which you live and the place where you want to remain. You can prove Florida meets these requirements through documents like the following:
- Driver’s license
- Mailing address
- Voter registration
- Vehicle registrations
If you have lived in Florida for at least six months and can prove that you want to stay in the Sunshine State, it’s appropriate to file for divorce in Florida.
2. Find your courthouse
Florida divorces begin with the paperwork you file with the court system. Find the courthouse in the county in which you live. You’ll work closely with this facility throughout your divorce.
3. File your paperwork
A Petition for Dissolution of Marriage starts the divorce process in Florida. Three versions of the form exist, including the following:
- Petition for Dissolution of Marriage with Dependent or Minor Child(ren)
- Petition for Dissolution of Marriage with No Dependent or Minor Child(ren) or Property
- Petition for Dissolution of Marriage with Property but No Dependent or Minor Child(ren)
Choose the form that’s right for you, fill it out, and bring it to the courthouse.
Note: A fourth version of the petition (Simplified Dissolution of Marriage) isn’t appropriate for most military divorces. People who can use this process agree to appear in hearings in person on a date the court sets. Military divorces are often too complicated for this process.
4. Notify your spouse
The courthouse clerk will provide stamped versions of your petition, which you must deliver, or serve, on your spouse. This step is complicated for military families, as you may not know where your spouse is. And some bases are locked down so tightly that you can’t use traditional server systems to offer that paperwork.
Find your spouse’s Social Security number, and contact the base locator at the last installation where your spouse was stationed. Ask for help locating your spouse.
You can use a traditional server, such as a private company, to bundle documents and hand them to your spouse on base. But if your server is turned away, you may be forced to use the U.S. Postal Service to deliver the documents via registered mail.
5. Share financial data
As part of any Florida divorce, you must provide your spouse with a clear picture of your current household finances. A form like this one contains detailed instructions about how to offer financial data to your spouse. The document even specifies how this information should be served to your spouse.
Don’t skip this step, as the Florida courts require proof that you’ve completed it. Your spouse is legally required to share the same data with you.
What issues do you settle in a Florida military divorce?
After you’ve filed paperwork and served your spouse, you must wind down your estate and make plans for the future.
In a traditional Florida divorce, two parties might discuss their plans in person. A military divorce might require a courtroom hearing, as the issues are much more complicated. These are a few of the topics you’ll resolve during this process:
Property division and debts
Florida laws emphasize an equitable distribution of debts and assets in divorce. All of the purchases you made during the marriage, and all of the debt you accrued, may or may not be split down the middle in your divorce. Instead of a 50/50 ideal, the goal is to split things fairly.
Other financial assets
The Uniformed Service Former Spouses’ Protection Act gives civilians access to benefits after divorce. You may be entitled to your former spouse’s commissary rights, medical benefits, and more. And you may get a portion of your spouse’s retirement pay.
These additional benefits don’t require negotiation, as they’re protected by military law. But they should be spelled out in the divorce settlement agreement so your spouse knows what you’ll get in the split and why.
Florida judges examine how long the marriage lasted when determining if spousal support (or alimony) is appropriate. In general, the longer the union lasted, the higher the payments. If one spouse gave up a career to support the other, this is taken into consideration when determining alimony payments.
Military laws can complicate payment plans. The Consumer Credit Protection Act limits child support and alimony payments to 50% to 65% of disposable earnings.
Florida courts may award you a higher amount, but the law could limit how much you’ll get each month.
Military parents aren’t automatically blocked from full child custody agreements. If your spouse wants total control over the children, that’s possible.
Florida courts typically look for plans that allow for a loving relationship between parents and their children. If the civilian parent retains custody, the children must still have the opportunity to spend time with the other parent on a schedule approved by the whole family.
Military rules state that servicemembers must provide “adequate support” to their families. Those regulations can vary by service. But they can help reduce financial pressure as your divorce drags on. The other party can’t cut you off entirely as you wait for your court case.
As part of your Florida divorce, you must determine how much the noncustodial parent pays. Military rules could limit how much money you see every month despite what the courts award you.
How long does a Florida military divorce take?
Military divorces in Florida are complex, and they can take a long time to complete. It’s common for them to take much longer than civilian divorce.
Serving divorce papers isn’t easy, especially if the military spouse is deployed. And someone in active service can delay and postpone hearings and other crucial steps until the active-duty portion of their service ends. These delays and logistical challenges can add months to any divorce process.
Even if your divorce progresses quickly, Florida laws require people to wait 30 days from filing paperwork to participating in a hearing. On that date, both parties must appear in front of the judge. Scheduling this meeting can cause delays, too.
How much does a Florida military divorce cost?
A standard Florida divorce costs about $400 to file. A military divorce could cost more to complete.
You could face fees associated with serving your spouse, participating in mediation, or hiring a lawyer to represent you in court. If you can avoid court and resolve differences in mediation, you’ll save a substantial amount of money on attorney and court fees.
These added fees could result in a clean and equitable break with your spouse. Years later, you might consider them more than reasonable. But know that this form of divorce tends to be more expensive than other Florida options.
ReferencesThe Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA). Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Consumer Pamphlet: Divorce in Florida. (March 2023). The Florida Bar.
Divorcing the Military Spouse. (2019). American Bar Association.
Petition for Dissolution of Marriage: 12.901. Florida Courts.
Starting the Case. American Bar Association.
Form 12.902(c): Family Law Financial Affidavit. (October 2021). Florida Courts.
Divorce: Military Pensions and Benefits. (August 2014). Office of the Staff Judge Advocate, MacDill Air Force Base, Florida.
Frequently Asked Questions. U.S. Department of Defense.
Marriage and Divorce. National Military Family Association.
Military Divorce: Why Where You File Matters. Military.com.
How Do I File for a Divorce? Florida Court Clerks and Comptrollers.