In the State of Florida, one of the most unique issues in a military divorce is the calculation of alimony and child support based on the income of the parties. When one spouse is OR both spouses are employed as service members, it is important to recognize that aspects of income, some not even taxable by the IRS, will be considered income when it comes to providing for your children and former spouse after a Florida Dissolution of Marriage.
Calculating income for a Florida military divorce or paternity action creates special issues, because of the differences in how service members are compensated as compared to the civilian workforce. Most of the pay information is found on the Leave and Earning Statement, which details how much you (or your partner) earns, their rank, years of service, but also any deductions. In every day terms, this is essentially the equivalent to your pay stub.
When considering what is inclusive income, a Florida court will consider the service member’s pay first. Thus, the basic pay, hazard pay, combat pay, and flight pay will definitely be considered in the calculation of the available income. These forms of pay are usually taxable, therefore it should come as no surprise that they are income. Military families need to also include the allowances that decrease a service member’s cost of living, such as housing allowances (BAH), disability pay, subsistence allowance (BAS), per diem payments, and cost of living adjustments (COLA). These “allowances” not only decrease the daily living expenses of the military spouse, but also act as an increase in their income, and become a complicated issue for family law judges to determine when considering child support calculations. These additions are usually considered to be income, as they are cash benefits which ultimately would be considered components of gross income when calculating child support of the families’ children.
That being said, when a service member resides in military housing, as opposed to receiving BAH, this is not considered a component of pay, as these are “in kind benefits” as opposed to a cash benefit. If the income is disposable, even when earmarked for certain expenses, they are considered portions of income used for the tabulation of support. Issues such as these can become even more complicated when considering disability and retirement pay, and how these issues can influence the calculation of a total household available income when considering family support. Finally, differential pay during deployment may also be considered as part of gross income.
Determining income and resulting support is one of the biggest concerns that people have when getting divorced or become involved in a child support case. Having an experienced Florida Family Law Attorney to have navigate these issues and other issues that are specific to your case is essential to your rights being preserved and your future being secure. Finding the right attorney that understands the specialized issues that your case presents, and also understands your priorities in moving forward is an important decision. Take time to ensure that the attorney that you retain to represent you in your Florida family case not only makes you feel comfortable in their approach but also their level of knowledge and experience in dealing with military issues is one of the most important decisions that you can make for yourself and your children in moving forward.
Wood, Atter & Wolf, P.A. is a law firm based in Jacksonville, Florida which has been serving residents in North Florida since 1957. We are On Your Side – At Your Side.