How Do I Divorce My Military Spouse Who is Stationed Overseas?
Divorce is always a difficult decision for a couple, but it is compounded when one is serving in the military, especially if they are overseas. You will have to navigate several different areas, including the division of the retirement benefits, jurisdiction, child custody and support, and health benefits.
Crystal Collins Spencer has more than three decades of experience dealing with divorce and will evaluate all options when it comes to divorcing your military spouse who is stationed overseas.
A Military Spouse Divorce
Jurisdiction – The U.S. court may not recognize a divorce filed overseas, so it’s best to file domestically.
There must be some substantial connection for the Florida courts to apply its rules to your divorce, particularly in the area of alimony, child custody, and asset distribution.
Florida requires one or both of the spouses reside in Florida for a term of at least six months. You should own property in the chosen state, one of you should have a permanent residency, or you may have spent the most time there as husband and wife. Your choice of state may depend on where the service member is currently stationed.
Support – Spousal support amount may depend on whether your spouse is receiving off-duty versus active-duty pay. If your spouse deploys regularly, the average yearly salary may be used to calculate alimony and/or child support.
Health insurance for the children should continue to be provided by the military member. If the service member has been in the military for at least 20 years, the health benefits are lifelong. If the marriage lasted less than 20 years, those full benefits might be available for a limited time or until a new military health policy is purchased.
A negotiated Marital Settlement Agreement will specify who receives survivor benefits, which provide a monthly payment or annuity to replace the retirement income upon death.
Any alimony will be negotiated depending on whether one party gave up a career for the other, particularly if the marriage lasted more than seven years. Even a marriage lasting less can entitle the other spouse to alimony if the marriage impacted their life choices and/or career.
Child Custody – A PCS or Permanent Change of Station is standard during military service, and often you do not get to choose where you will be stationed. This change may severely impact the time you spend with your children unless you plan on taking them with you. The parent relocating has the burden of proof to convince the court that the move is in the children’s best interest.
The other side must prove by the preponderance of the evidence that not moving is in the children’s best interest.
A Florida court must hear the requests within 30 days of filing, but a postponement or stay of administrative proceedings can occur if the service member cannot attend.
Retirement Benefits – If you are married to a military spouse, you must be married for a minimum of 10 years. The military spouse should have served no less than ten years to receive retirement pay directly from the military.
Less than ten years, the nonmilitary party can receive half of the existing pension. Your military spouse will be required to pay some portion of his military retirement benefits to you, with the court overseeing the plan for direct payments.
The length of the marriage will determine how much you can receive. The longer the marriage and the service, the better the benefits for the divorcing nonmilitary spouse.
Do not forget that assets in the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) will need to be divided if the spouse qualifies.
A former spouse may also be eligible to receive Tricare medical coverage if the service member was enrolled for at least 20 years or the marriage overlapped the service period by at least 15 years.
Your Pensacola, FL Family Law Attorney
Crystal Collins Spences has three decades of experience and understands the area of military divorces. Ms. Spencer can advise you of your rights and strategize your alternatives during your divorce. During this difficult time, we will review your case to uncover how best we can serve your interests and that of your children. Call our Pensacola office at (850) 795-4910 to begin the conversation.