How does retirement for the spouse of a military servicemember work?

Retirement that is earned during any marriage is considered a marital asset unless the parties have a prenuptial agreement that addresses it. In Florida, we use a coverture fraction to determine what portion of the member’s retirement can be allocated to the spouse. You first start with the number of months the parties were married during the service time. That number is divided by the total number of months of service the military member has accrued. If the member hasn’t retired by the time of the divorce, then that number is determined when the member retires. There will be a percentage once you do the division. That percentage is the overall percentage of service during the marriage. That number is then divided by 2. The resulting percentage is then multiplied by the monthly retirement award. Keep in mind that many servicemembers will receive a disability rating that converts their retirement to disability. That disability is not considered an asset and cannot be awarded to the spouse; however, it can be considered a source to pull alimony, child support or attorneys fees.

For example, a couple is married for 10 years (120 months) of the members’ service. The member serves 20 years (240 months). You divide the 120 by 240 and get 50%. You divide that by 2. The spouse would receive 25% of the member’s monthly retirement. The only way to secure that retirement is if the member designates the spouse as the Survivor Benefit. The parties pay the amount from the gross pay before the retirement is divided and that ensures the spouse continues to receive that portion even if the member dies first. The amount is currently at $234 per month. Some people think that is expensive since it is to ensure the retirement. Some choose not to do that and simply get a life insurance policy.

If the parties are not married for ten years, DFAS (Defense Finance and Accounting Services), will not create a separate account for the spouse and send the retirement directly to them. The spouse would have to get it from the member.

Can a spouse file for legal separation in the state of Florida? Not often can an attorney give a straight black and white answer, but this is easy. No. Florida is one of 6 states that do not recognize legal separation. It doesn’t end there though. Florida does have different ways to get relief without filing for divorce.

You can file a Petition for Alimony or Child support unconnected with a divorce.  (Pursuant to Florida Statute section 61.09) This allows the parties to appear before a court or by agreement and establish either alimony or child support without divorcing the parties. Why would someone do that? Typically, people may not want to divorce for financial, emotional or religious views. This action can in fact establish child support or alimony.

Another way to establish property rights or issues of support,they can enter into a post nuptial agreement. What is a post nuptial agreement? You may have heard of a pre-nup, or pre-nuptial agreement. A pre-nuptial is a binding contract entered into by two spouses before their marriage. It can protect one or both spouses property in the event that the marriage ends in divorce. A post-nuptial agreement can do the same thing, but it is an agreement entered into after the marriage.

I did say I could give a straight answer, but I guess not. In law there are almost always exceptions to the general rule.

Has the Pretrial Order in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties changed?

The family law Pretrial Order in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties has changed effective September 1, 2020. There is no longer a provision that requires equal time until you can see a Judge. No longer are there fall back holidays. How does that impact you? If you are contemplating a divorce, the new order essentially means that the parents still have equal access to the children, but there is no bright line as to how to share the children. With the lack of schedule, it may mean some parents refuse to allow the other one time sharing at all. If this happens, it will not be favorably look on by the Court. If you are thinking about a divorce or other family law matter, contact our firm to schedule a consult. We have been helping Good People at their Worst Time for over 21 years.

Below is the link for your review.

Brick and Mortar or Virtual?

Brick & Mortar or Virtual School? That seems to be the question that parents everywhere are faced with. Even more difficult is when the parents are no longer together. There is no bright line rule as to how the children will attend school. Many parents are filing different motions to make their choice, the choice. It comes down to whether the children are high risk or if someone in the family is high risk. What I’ve seen is Judges continuing the status quo. Just like we have personalized parenting plans, it boils down to each child’s individual needs. Try to remember that you and the other parent probably had a good relationship before the pandemic, don’t let it ruin it.

Which credit cards do I have to pay in a divorce?

When you find yourself contemplating a divorce, one of your questions will be, “Which debts do I have to take?” In Florida, we are an equitable distribution state. That means there is no bright line showing the court how to divide the parties’ property. In some cases, the division of debts and assets are not always 50/50. In Community Property states, (Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin. Alaska is an opt-in community property state that gives both parties the option to make their property community property.), there is a bright line rule. Property and debt are divided equally, period. But since we are in Florida, division can be divided unequally depending on various factors.

Credit cards like any debt incurred during the marriage is considered a marital debt, even if one spouse didn’t know about it. A debt will not be considered marital if it was for a non-marital purpose, such as a paramour,or a strip club. Ultimately though, the party’s legal responsibility for a debt boils down to who is the card holder, not just an authorized user. The credit card company can only pursue the card holder. Many times the Court will allocate a credit card debt in the division of property to the non-card holder. It may ultimately be enforceable if the card holder pays the debt and then sues the other party. I always suggest to my client to take their own debt and we can sort out the rest, because the last thing a party wants is to rely on their now ex-spouse to pay their credit card. It can ruin your credit.

Can I really be arrested if I violate the social distancing on the water or land?

Yes! It is a second degree misdemeanor if you violate one of the social distancing orders. As recently as this past Saturday, law enforcement officers responded to Ft. McRee where several people had gathered. The officers required the boaters to separate their boats by 50 feet. A second degree misdemeanor is the lowest crime level assigned to an offense in the state of Florida. One can be facing 60 days in the County Jail or up to 6 months probation.

Is it legal to send naked pictures of myself to someone else?

If you send naked pictures of yourself and are 18 years of age or older, then no. It is legal to do so. However, if you are under that age, a naked picture even if it’s of your self, is considered child pornography. Each picture is a separate count and is punishable as a 3rd degree felony. For parents, monitor your children’s social media. Our firm has represented a young man whose girlfriend sent him a picture of herself in her underwear. He sent back a picture of his private parts. The mother of the girlfriend found the picture and pressed charges. It is charged as a sex offender. If he were convicted, that would label him a sex offender. Parents please have this discussion with your children.

Does a sperm donor have parental rights to the child?

The linked article sheds light on a area of law that is becoming more common, sperm and egg donation. More women are waiting later to have children. When my mother was younger, it was normal for women to get married in their teens and become parents in their late teens early 20’s. This may be why infertility treatments weren’t as utilized as it is now. There was no need. A woman’s fertility doesn’t decrease until her late 20’s, but when she reaches 35, her ability to have a child decreases more quickly. According to, “Each month that she tries, a healthy, fertile 30-year-old woman has a 20% chance of getting pregnant. That means that for every 100 fertile 30-year-old women trying to get pregnant in 1 cycle, 20 will be successful and the other 80 will have to try again. By age 40, a woman’s chance is less than 5% per cycle, so fewer than 5 out of every 100 women are expected to be successful each month.” Everyone knows that men can father a child well past that of a woman, some fathering children well into their 70’s.

Then there is the issue of how can a woman who wants to get pregnant, achieve pregnancy. In the state of Florida, sperm donors have no legal claim to their offspring. In fact, the father may not know how many times his sperm is used or not. If you are a woman who wants no contact with the father of your child, this is the route to take. The consequences of obtaining sperm in any other method will subject you to the father’s potential claim to establish paternity. It won’t even matter if the father waits years after the child is born to establish his rights. Until 2018, a married woman who became impregnated by a man other than her husband, could block the biological father’s rights to the child at all. Florida’s Supreme Court held in 2018, in Perkins v. Simmons, that a biological father does have the right to establish paternal rights to a child conceived to a married mother.

When determining how to become a parent, choose wisely.

Alimony-New law Cuts both Ways

The new Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), cuts both ways on the issue of alimony. If you are a paying spouse, new divorces that are final post 12/31/2018, cannot deduct the alimony paid on their tax return. If you are a receiving spouse, the alimony payment you receive (if entered or modified post 12/31/2018, is no longer taxed. So, if a spouse is ordered to pay $1200 per month, $1200 is actually what will be received.

It will be interesting to see how the new law is received once its terms become effective.

Activated? Deployed? TDY? Read here.

I’m really excited to announce that Florida’s legislature, only one of 13 other states, has adopted the Uniform Deployed Parents Custody and Visitation Act. It allows for parents who are activated, deployed or TDY to designate a family member, stepparent or relative of the child by marriage to exercise their time-sharing with the child on their behalf.

I see this as a huge boon to US military servicemembers. It will allow children to maintain the stability, their routine, even though a parent is absent due to their Service to our country. No longer can a parent refuse to allow the step-parent contact while the other is serving our country.