How Does the Servicemember Recoup the Former Spouse’s Share of Retired Pay if the Former Spouse Dies First?

When a former spouse (FS) passes away first, how long does it take for the retired servicemember (SM) to recover the FS’s share of retired pay?   As discussed in a previous blog, a FS’s share of military retired pay will only terminate in one of two ways:
  1. On the death of the FS, or
  2. On death of the SM. 
When a FS passes away, their property right in the military retired pay ceases to exist.  A FS’s right to military retired pay terminates upon the FS’s death and is not transferable by Will or other means.  However, the Department of Finance and Accounting Services (DFAS) does not change its payments until DFAS is properly notified of the FS’s death.  So, the answer to the question “how long does it take?” depends on how swiftly the SM notice of the FS’s passing.  DFAS requires notice by fax or by mail.  Notice must include:
  1. Written documentation regarding the death of FS;
  2. A copy of the FS’s death certificate; and
  3. The retired SM’s name, social security number, and date of the former spouse’s death.

Contact info for DFAS follows: 

 DFAS fax:

(877) 622-5930

DFAS mailing address: 


Assistant General Counsel for Garnishment Operations

P.O. Box 998002

Cleveland, OH 44199-8002

Other issues related to the death of a FS, such as what can happen to a FS’s Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) can be found by clicking here.   Speak with a qualified military divorce attorney if you have questions about military divorce.

Author Jim Cramp is a retired active duty colonel and the founder and principal attorney at the Cramp Law Firm, PLLC.  The firm provides a spectrum of family law-related services to clients in the greater San Antonio region, across the United States and throughout the world.  The firms also provides Wills and Estates and Probate services.