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San Antonio, TX Family Law and Military Divorce Blog

Monday, January 7, 2019

Military Divorce - Former Spouse Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) Time Lines

Since Former Spouse retired pay terminates on the death of the Servicemember, the Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) is a purchased annuity that provides a monthly payment that either partially, meets or exceeds replacement of the Former Spouse's share of retired pay, depending on the amount of the Servicemember's retired pay insured.  When divorce occurs prior to the Servicemember's eligibility for retirement, the divorce decree must order the Servicemember to elect the Former Spouse as the SBP beneficiary.  (emphasis added).  Often the decree also orders the Former Spouse to effect a "deemed election" by submitting an appropriate application within one year of the date of divorce.1  If the Former Spouse fails to effect a deemed election within one year of the date of divorce, the Servicemember may elect to provide SBP to the Former Spouse at time of retirement out-processing.2  It is not uncommon for Servicemembers to be asked to submit copies of any divorce decree(s) in concert with retirement out-processing to check for such court-ordered obligations.

When divorce occurs after retirement, there is no automatic conversion of "Spouse SBP" to "Former Spouse SBP."  (emphasis added).  Former Spouse SBP must be ordered in the decree.  Again, the decree typically orders the Servicemember to make the election and also orders the Former Spouse to make a deemed election.  Any post-retirement election made by the Servicemember or deemed election by the Former Spouse must be made within one year of the date of divorce.1,3

DFAS will not bail-out a Servicemember or Former Spouse who fails to heed the critical time lines for effecting or deeming election of Former Spouse SBP coverage.  For example, any court order that finds the Servicemember in contempt for not effecting an election of Former Spouse SBP coverage does not restart a new one year window.4  There may be other legal consequences, but the Court cannot force DFAS to reopen the window for the Servicemember to elect or Former Spouse to deem a Former Spouse SBP election.4

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 firm specializes in Federal Civil Service and Military Divorce matters.

Note1 - See Dep't of Defense Financial Management Regulation 7000.14-R, Military Pay, Policy and Procedures - Retired Pay, Chapter 43, Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) - Elections and Election Changes, Paragraph 430504 C., Deemed Elections.

Note2See Dep't of Defense Financial Management Regulation 7000.14-R, Military Pay, Policy and Procedures - Retired Pay, Chapter 43, Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) - Elections and Election Changes, Paragraph 430504 A., Upon Retirement (Retiring Members).

Note3 - See Dep't of Defense Financial Management Regulation 7000.14-R, Military Pay, Policy and Procedures - Retired Pay, Chapter 43, Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) - Elections and Election Changes, Paragraph 430504 B., Following Retirement (Retired Members).

Note4 - See Dep't of Defense Financial Management Regulation 7000.14-R, Military Pay, Policy and Procedures - Retired Pay, Chapter 43, Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) - Elections and Election Changes, Paragraph 430504 C.2., Deemed Elections (stating that a subsequent court order holding a member in contempt of court for failing to fulfill the prior court order or agreement will not begin a new one-year period to deem an election).


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