The Military, Florida Divorce, and Residency Requirements

Florida Statutes Section 61.021 imposes a residency requirement for divorce cases:  One of the parties must have lived in Florida for at least 6 months prior to the filing of the petition for dissolution of marriage.  This generally means that a spouse will have to be physically present in Florida fort six months and have the intent to remain a permanent resident of Florida.

However, Florida does provide exceptions for members of the military.

Florida family courts may take jurisdiction of a divorce if a servicemember who previously lived in Florida is stationed outside of the state due to the requirement of the military, but still considers Florida to be his or her primary state of residence.  See Coons v. Coons, 765 So. 2d 167 (Fla. 1st DCA 2000).   In other words, the military member’s absence from the state for six months is excused in most cases if Florida is the servicemember’s home state.

Further, servicemembers and their spouses are presumed to be residents of Florida for purposes of the divorce statute if they are stationed in the state.  See F.S. s. 47.081.

Understandably, most members of the armed services are surprised to hear that divorce proceedings are public.  Obviously, things that occur in these proceedings, if they were to make it back to a servicemember’s supervising officer, could and oftentimes do affect that person’s military career.

This is why I strongly suggest that any member of the military consider utilizing the collaborative divorce process.  This is a form of private divorce where each party hires an attorney, and family issues such as child custody, child support, alimony, and division of property and debt are determined in the conference rooms of professionals rather than in the public courthouse.  The attorneys are retained only for this private process, and are contractually barred from bringing any disputed issues in front of a judge.  A facilitator, who has a role similar to a mediator, is engaged as a neutral third-party to help keep the process moving forward.

Only once an entire agreement is reached will the parties go before a judge to make their divorce official, and most of the time any financial agreements and information and other private matters can be excluded from the court file.

If you are a member of the military and you have questions regarding Florida divorce or how the collaborative process can help maintain your privacy, schedule a consultation with The Law Firm of Adam B. Cordover, P.A., at (813) 443-0615 or fill out our contact form.

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