One situation that divorce lawyers may deal with is giving advice to military spouses who are seeking a divorce. These circumstances can be somewhat different than the standard termination of marriage, since dividing a Survivor’s Benefit Plan or SBP can become quite involved. Texas laws that pertain to military income and SBPs may be different than those concerning civilian divorces. For this reason, military divorces should always be obtained with the assistance of divorce attorneys who have this type of knowledge and experience.
Military Survivor's Benefit Plans
Military SBPs go into effect after the death of a covered military member. This benefit is available to a surviving spouses of military members up to the amount of coverage. Although SBPs are designed to provide income for surviving spouses, Federal law permits a former spouse to collect this income if so designated by the military member.
Former spouses usually work with divorce lawyers who can help them determine their eligibility, and then file a document with the court in order to receive these benefits. Not every former spouse qualifies for an SBP and the benefit is not payable to more than one spouse, former or current. In addition, the military member must have enrolled in SBP coverage prior to his or her death for this to be collectible as a retirement benefit.
SBPs Are Considered As Income
Like many other retirement benefits, a military Survivor’s Benefit Plan is considered to be income for the spouse or former spouse receiving it. Considering that Texas is a community property state, divorce attorneys stress that all marital income must be appropriately split between the spouses before a divorce will be granted. In the case of a military divorce, the division of marital wealth must include the division of military retirement funds, including any SPBs.
Spouse and Former Spouse Benefit Plans
Retired members of the military who are entitled to a retirement benefit may also obtain benefits for a spouse. Yet divorce attorneys point out that a spousal retirement benefit does not automatically turn into a former spousal benefit when military couples divorce. Spousal coverage normally ends when a divorce is granted. For a former spouse to continue receiving a benefit, a lawyer must submit an application to the court for an order to continue benefits. This court order will also address continued receipt of benefits after the death of a retired former spouse.
Applications and Court Orders
For a former spouse to obtain their ex-spouse’s military retirement benefit or SBP, that spouse and their divorce attorney must first determine eligibility, then file an application for a court-ordered benefit. If the spouse is approved for the court-ordered benefit, divorce lawyers must then file a second application with the Defense Finance and Accounting Service that is responsible for paying the benefit to the former spouse. If the appropriate applications are not filed within the required time limit, the former spouse may be denied any benefit.
The division of marital property can be a challenging part of any marriage termination. Yet when military couples split up, divorce lawyers must also consider military retirement benefits, including SBPs. To ensure that a former spouse who is entitled to this benefit actually receives payment, it is highly recommended enlisting the aid of divorce attorneys experienced with military divorces!
Foreman Family Law, PLLC
309 North Washington Avenue, Suite 12
Bryan TX 77803