Tampa Attorney - Military Divorce
Many people, including lesser experienced attorneys, mistakenly believe that the intricate details of any dissolution or post-dissolution matter is the same from one case to another. The reality is that it takes an attorney with a unique understanding of military procedures to represent service members (SMs) or their spouses.
Military marriages face more challenges than non-military marriages because of the additional stressors placed on the spouses, their children and their families as a whole. When we speak with potential clients who are in the military or whose spouses, or both, are serving in the military, many of the marital challenges they are facing are a direct result of their job related stress. The SM receives Orders such as PCS and TDY. Not only does the attorney have to understand the consequences of these Orders, but the attorney must also have a working knowledge of how these Orders will impact and affect either the SM’s or their spouse’s ultimate parenting plan and time-sharing schedule with the children.In addition to the challenges the SM faces with the ever-present uncertainty of potential relocation inside the United States, a SM might also be given Orders for Deployment overseas. If that occurs and the SM is assigned overseas for a period in excess of 90 days, Florida Law allows the SM to temporarily designate family members to exercise the SM’s time-sharing schedule with the minor children until the SM returns from his or her deployment.
The founding partner of The South Tampa Law Group, P.A. attorney Chris E. Ragano, has handled hundreds of military dissolution or post-dissolution cases over more than 20 years as a practicing attorney handling only family law cases. Through so many years of representing SMs or their spouses, we are astutely experienced in interpreting what these orders mean to the family and we can help guide the SM or the spouse through the process. This specialized knowledge ensures that both parties have the ability to maximize their time with the children if this type of situation occurs.
Military Divorces also require an attorney who is skilled in understanding the financial rules and regulations when it comes to determining the amount of Temporary Support (both Child Support and Alimony) when there are no State Court Orders in place. Each branch of service has their own guidelines for determining the amount that the SM must pay to the dependent spouse and his or her children if there is a physical separation while the SM is active military.
When a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage is filed in Florida State Courts, the Rules of Civil Procedure, as well as the Family Law Rules of Procedure, become effective. The SM’s income is then determined to establish his or her temporary and final support obligations. Oftentimes, attorneys do not know or understand that all sources of pay and allowances (Basic Pay, BAH, BAS, OHA, etc.) are used to calculate the SM’s child support and/or alimony obligations to the non-service member spouse and children, regardless of their taxable status. Attorney Chris Ragano, and his firm, can review the SM’s Leave and Earnings Statements (LES) to determine how much support the SM should be paying to the dependent spouse and/or his or her children.
As part of a Dissolution proceeding, both parties are required to disclose and file their respective Family Law Financial Affidavits (FA). Typically, the SM will be required to list and describe each and every marital asset on the FA. However, most attorneys are unfamiliar when it comes to allocating what is a marital asset in a Military Divorce matter for purposes of Equitable Distribution.
Frequently, SMs will not list or provide any information on their Military Retired Pay, even though it is considered a “non-vested” marital asset which needs to be “present-valued” for purposes of equitable distribution in the State of Florida. The South Tampa Law Group, P.A. will retain expert actuaries whom they know based on past experiences are familiar with military income and assets. These experts will be retained to determine the “present value” of this significant marital asset as well as calculate the marital portion (or percentage) that the non-service member spouse is entitled to for purposes of equitable distribution. In addition, the SM sometimes does not list his or her Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) even though it, too, is considered a martial asset subject to equitable distribution in the State of Florida.
As a result of this vast experience with military divorces, we can help you determine if assets exist, and how to transfer them to you through the appropriate Military Pension Division Orders (MPDO) along with any cost of living adjustments that you may be entitled to as part of this process as long as you meet the criteria for the 10/10 Rule. What this means is that the SM must have ten (10) years of creditable service that overlap with ten (10) years of marriage in order to garnish the SM’s retired pay from Defense Financing and Accounting Service (DFAS). Otherwise, the payment will need to come directly from the SM to the non-service member spouse. This is a common mistake that attorneys unfamiliar with the intricacies of Military Divorces can make to the detriment of their client.
Prior to the conclusion of the dissolution process and the entry of a Final Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage by the Court, it is imperative that the non-service member spouse determine whether he or she is entitled to life-time TRICARE coverage if they meet the 20/20/20 Rule. In addition to not receiving TRICARE coverage for life, they may lose certain privileges such as their military ID cards, commissary privileges, and medical care at some Medical Treatment Facility (MTF).
Even though most SMs have the standard Service Members Group Life Insurance (SGLI) while they are active, once the SM retires (or becomes retirement eligible) it is important to incorporate into the Marital Settlement Agreement (MSA) that the SM must elect that the Former Spouse be designated as the beneficiary of his or her Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) as the death of the SM terminates the pension payments. The retired SM’s check then becomes the source of the monthly premium payments and the designated survivor will receive a lifetime annuity of 55% of the designated base amount.
Clearly, navigating through a Military Divorce can be complicated and perhaps confusing for attorneys who do not have experience with handling military divorces and representing SMs or their spouses. The lack of this specialized experience will inure to the detriment of the SM or their spouse in terms of reduced support, benefits, time-sharing, etc.
At The South Tampa Law Group, P.A. we recognize the sacrifices made by SMs, their spouses, and even their children, to serve and protect our country and preserve our freedom. The military family unit often suffers the consequences of these sacrifices by falling apart. The goal of The South Tampa Law Group, P.A. is that both parties are treated fairly and receive what they are rightfully entitled to, and that the children of the marriage, if there are any, are properly provided for and protected.
Call The South Tampa Law Group, P.A. whether you are an SM or a military spouse if you need representation as a SM or SM spouse in dissolution or post-dissolution proceeding. We extend the professional courtesy of military discounts on our fees as well as a free consultation.
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To discuss your family law concerns with a lawyer at our firm, call 813-586-2277.