Post-Judgment Modifications in Military Divorce
In a standard civilian divorce, post-judgment modifications are common, given the nature of life today. However, in a military divorce, there may be unforeseen complications due to one or both spouses’ duty status. Parenting time and spousal support are the most common issues over which a military divorce may be modified.
A modification in parenting time is an understandable thing to ask for, and if a parent can show that it is merited, the courts are often lenient. Florida law holds that there must be a “substantial change” in a parent’s circumstances before they are permitted to file for a modification. Losing a job or leaving it has been held to constitute a substantial change, especially if it means a change in hours or shift times (for example, a parent formerly working nights might apply for a modification in parenting time if they switch to a day shift or weekends). Military employment, especially if, say, a parent is honorably discharged or they are reassigned, fits this bill.
It is important to remember, however, that the substantial change in circumstances must not have been contemplated at the time of the initial judgment. It is not acting in good faith for a parent to consent to a custody arrangement knowing that they would immediately challenge the arrangement; such actions jeopardize children’s stability at what can be a very fragile age. Thus, if a military spouse consents to a parenting time arrangement they know that they will challenge once they are discharged is, at the very least, in bad faith, and the court may decline the request for modification if they hold this to be the case.
Military spouses, on the other hand, will generally have a harder time receiving a modification to alimony than they will in modifying parenting time. The reason for this is that under Florida case law, a decrease in alimony must be as a result of an “unexpected” and (usually) permanent change in circumstances. If someone is dishonorably discharged from the military, they may not expect this, but a conscious decision to leave would mean that they were unable to reap this benefit.
Be advised that there is a way to indirectly wind up with a decrease in alimony payments; however, it will usually only be available at retirement (from the military or any other job), because such constitutes a substantial change in the military servicemember’s finances and circumstances. As long as the voluntary parting from the military is deemed reasonable – that is, the member is deemed to have reached a point where it would be appropriate to no longer be on active duty – the courts are likely to grant the request to modify alimony payments.
Ask For Experienced Legal Assistance
If you have gone through a divorce, but are now experiencing radically altered circumstances, it is generally a good idea to contact a knowledgeable attorney. The Hollywood military divorce attorneys at the firm of Steven A. Mason, P.A. understand the complex situations that are prone to happen to military servicemembers trying to juggle responsibilities, and we will work with you every step of the way to help get you a fair and equitable result. Contact the Fort Lauderdale and Hollywood Law Offices of Steven A. Mason, P.A. for legal advice at 954-963-5900 or leave a message online.