How does Florida law address the division of military pensions in a divorce?

Understanding the Division of Military Pensions in Florida Divorces

When a marriage dissolves in the state of Florida, the division of assets can be a complex process, especially when it involves the division of military pensions. Military pensions are considered marital property under Florida law, which means they are subject to equitable distribution in a divorce. However, the distribution of these benefits is governed not only by state law but also by federal statutes.

Military pensions are addressed through the Uniformed Services Former Spouses' Protection Act (USFSPA), which recognizes the right of state courts to distribute military retired pay to a former spouse. In Florida, the court typically follows the 'marital portion' formula, which calculates the amount of pension that was accrued during the marriage. The non-military spouse is entitled to a share of this portion, not the entire pension.

The division process begins with a determination of whether the military pension is subject to distribution. If it is considered marital property, the court will then consider factors such as the length of the marriage, contributions to the service member's career, and other relevant economic factors. It's important to note that there is a 10-year rule for direct payment enforcement: The couple must have been married for at least 10 years during which the military member performed at least 10 years of creditable service towards retirement eligibility.

For example, if a couple was married for 20 years, and during 15 of those years one spouse was serving in the military and accruing retirement benefits, then the marital portion of the pension would be based on those 15 years. The actual division might award the non-military spouse anywhere from 30% to 50% of that marital portion, depending on various factors and negotiations.

It's important for divorcing couples to understand that military pensions differ from civilian retirement accounts. There are nuances in how survivor benefit plans are handled and how disability pay affects pension division. For instance, disability pay is not subject to division as marital property. Thus, when a military member opts for disability pay over retirement pay, it can affect the amount available for distribution.

In conclusion, Florida law treats military pensions as marital property subject to equitable distribution. However, due to federal regulations like USFSPA and specifics such as disability pay rules or survivor benefit plans, it's advisable for individuals going through a divorce involving military pensions to seek legal counsel familiar with both military and state laws.