On Veterans Days, we honor all of the people who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces. For his or her years of service, and depending upon individual election, a veteran may receive a Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP). Traditionally, this benefit allows the surviving spouse of the veteran to keep receiving a monthly benefit payment after the veteran dies.
Divorcing veterans (and their spouses) frequently ask: What happens to the SBP upon divorce? Can the veteran keep the SBP for an ex-spouse?
It is critical to know that, by law, a spouse’s SBP coverage terminates on the date of divorce. However, within 1 year of a divorce decree, one can elect to provide coverage to a former spouse. It is not enough for there to be a provision in a court order that awards the former spouse the SBP coverage. The military member must make the election by contacting the Defense Finance and Account Service. Alternatively, the ex-spouse can make the request within the 1-year period. Without express and separate elections, the SBP to the ex-spouse will be not take effect.
The SBP is a complicated program and divorce, along with remarriage and death, present many different scenarios and challenges that are best addressed with legal counsel well-versed in military benefits.
Kimberly and Janice are recognized as leading experts in military benefits, as they relate to family law in the Chicago legal community. Please contact us for a consultation if you have further inquiries.