Family Law: Special issues for Military Family 

If you or your spouse serves in the Navy, then you know that your marriage has faced challenges that civilians could never fully understand – challenges that sometimes are just too much to overcome.

Helping military families transition through divorce is important to me personally. As a Marine infantryman squad leader, I learned that returning from a deployment could be as difficult as the deployment itself. It was never easy to watch a squad member and his wife go through a divorce, especially with children involved. But it was especially ugly if one had an ineffective attorney or one unable to stand up to the scorched earth tactics of the other lawyer. Since dedicating my practice exclusively to family law, I’ve been committed to providing sailors and their spouses with skilled, knowledgeable representation.

It’s the least you deserve. Especially when it’s far too easy to hire a lawyer who knows little more than what LES, BAH, and BAS stand for. In a military divorce or modification, there are unique issues that typical divorce attorneys could overlook.

Unlike the usual Jacksonville divorce, a divorce involving a sailor or retired sailor requires knowledge of not just Florida law, but relevant federal law and regulations. An array of jurisdictional issues can arise in a military divorce, especially where a spouse is deployed, another state resident, or a retiree located in another state. The lawyer handling your matter must understand the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act and various laws and regulations affecting jurisdiction, venue, and service of process.

And retirement. Pensions are a minefield for the divorce lawyer who treats them like just any other pension, which can result in the failure to prepare a qualified military order that DFAS will recognize when the time comes. Many variables come into play. It’s one thing if the pension’s already earned; another if that will happen years down the road or perhaps never. The possibility that some of the retirement pension could be converted to disability is another critical issue. It’s easy to make a mistake and not learn about it till years later.

That’s not all. Your attorney must understand the availability of, and differences between, standard life insurance policies, Servicemembers Group Life Insurance (which isn’t regulated by state order), or the Survivor Benefit Plan. The implications if one or both of the divorcing parties has an eye toward remarriage. What happens to the spouse’s health benefits and the factors affecting that determination. How to properly account for BAH, BAS, and the variety of additional allowances that a sailor may earn when calculating child support or alimony. How support issues, even during litigation, can get a sailor into trouble with not only the court but with the chain of command.   

And there are the most critical issues of all. You need an attorney who can clearly present your role in your children’s lives and explain how the demands of the service can be met while you still enjoy substantial timesharing with your children. And whether you’re a sailor or civilian, you’ll need to be prepared to address the crucial challenge of relocation proceedings when those PCS orders inevitably come through.

I’m proud to have helped several sailors get through difficult divorces or paternity claims. And knowing first-hand the stresses military families endure even in the best of circumstances, I believe sailors and spouses will especially value my emphasis on helping them to “Keep Moving” to better times ahead after the divorce.