I am a military retiree going through a divorce. My soon to be ex-wife is the beneficiary of my military Survivor Benefits Plan. Do I have to keep her as the beneficiary? What options do I have?
Survivor Benefits Plan Explained
A Survivor Benefits Plan is an annuity program that provides continuing benefits to beneficiaries selected by the service member in the event of the service member’s death. The service member must be retired or retirement-eligible active duty to qualify for a Survivor Benefits Plan. Beneficiaries may be the service member’s spouse, children, spouse and children, or a person with insurable interest.
Community Property in Divorce
The Survivor Benefits Plan is often considered along with other community property during the divorce. You may decide with your ex-wife or the court may order that you continue providing Survivor Benefits Plan coverage to your former spouse after the divorce. There are benefits and drawbacks to continuing or ending coverage. One of our military divorce attorneys can explain all the details to you.
It is important to know that if the divorce occurs after retirement, former spouse coverage is not automatic. You have one year to elect former spouse coverage and file such with the Defense Financial and Accounting Service (“DFAS”).
Only One Spouse at a Time
One of the drawbacks of continuing to cover a former spouse is that it prevents you from covering a new spouse. A Survivor Benefits Plan cannot be divided among a spouse and a former spouse. If a former spouse is the beneficiary of a service member’s Survivor Benefits Plan and the service member remarries, the service member’s new spouse cannot be a beneficiary.
Covering Children and Others
Depending on the specific Survivor Benefits Plan you have, you may be able to switch the benefits from your ex-wife to your children. This would allow your children to directly receive benefits.
Additionally, the beneficiary of the plan may also be a person with insurable interest. This is either a close relative or a person with whom you have financial connection, such as a business partner.
Make the Best Choice
Making the right decision concerning your Survivor Benefits Plan during a divorce takes experience with both Washington State family law and military regulations. The attorneys of Divorce Lawyers For Men have the first hand legal experience to help you make these decisions and protect your rights and assets in divorce court. Call us to speak with a military divorce attorney who can help.
Divorce Lawyers For Men™ attorneys advise and assist husbands and fathers in the military going through divorce. We will help you understand how both Washington state and federal law applies to your divorce. You served your country and kept America safe. We are proud to stand by you in court. Call us today at (360) 866-7393 to speak with an attorney who understands the needs of military men.
If you would like more information on the divorce process, or to take the best divorce resources with you in print, please check out our free divorce guide for men in the military or contact our office to meet with an attorney about your particular circumstances.