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Veteran Mother Comes Home

San Antonio, TX Family Law and Military Divorce Blog

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Former Spouse Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) "Base Amount" - Avoiding A "Death Windfall"


Under all conditions, former spouse retired pay stops at the servicemember's death. SBP is a purchased annuity that provides a replacement stream of income to a former spouse who outlives the servicemember.  

The SBP "base amount" is the amount of the servicemember's gross retired pay that is insured.  By default, the base amount is the full amount of retired pay.  The base amount can be anything between the servicemember's gross retired pay but not less than $300.


Read more . . .


Sunday, March 11, 2018

"Spoliation" - The Destruction of Evidence


Spoliation is the destruction of evidence.  In divorce, this mainly centers on destruction or deletion of social media content and text messages or video stored in a party's cell phone.  In order to prove spoliation, the party making the allegation must demonstrate that the party alleged to have committed spoliation had a duty to preserve the information.  People generally understand that a duty not to destroy or delete evidence exits once litigation starts.  Courts often include a prohibition against spoliation in "standing orders" that must be attached to an original petition or counterpetition.


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Saturday, February 17, 2018

Military Divorce: No SBP at Retirement, No SBP in Divorce


Former Spouse retired pay payments stop on the death of the Servicemember.  The Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) is a purchased annuity that protects a Former Spouse by providing a stream of income after the Servicemember’s death.

If divorce occurs after the Servicemember's retirement, there are two scenarios where the Former Spouse will be vulnerable.  First, if the Servicemember at retirement, with the Spouse’s written approval, opts for a reduced amount of SBP (i.e.


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Sunday, January 14, 2018

Visitation Schedule Concerns for the "Non-Primary" Parent


With respect to children and visitation in divorce, the norm in Texas is to name the parents “Joint Managing Conservators” with one of the conservators having the right to designate the primary residence of the children (with or without geographic restriction.   Being a Joint Managing Conservator means both parents have equal rights with respect to the children.  It does not mean that both parents have equal time of possession.
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Sunday, November 26, 2017

Federal Employee Death Prior to 10 Years Service and Survivor Annuities

In a Federal Civil Service divorce, will for former spouse who has been awarded a Former Spouse Survivor Annuity always collect on that annuity after the death of the employee?  Not always.

Federal law provides that if the employee completed at least 18 months service, but LESS THAN 10 YEARS SERVICE at time of death, then the former spouse only is entitled to the Basic Employee Death Benefit.  This remains true even if a divorce decree and court order accepted by OPM had ordered a Former Spouse Survivor Annuity. 

The Basic Employee Death Benefit is as follows:

  1. Fifty percent of the final annual rate of basic pay of the employee; plus,
  2. Fifteen thousand dollars (adjusted annually by cost-of-living adjustments for retirees since 12/0/1987; currently in 2017 worth slightly more than $32,423).

Read more . . .


Sunday, November 19, 2017

Not Sure If Your Spouse Has A Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) Account?


TSP can provide a spouse with the plan participants account statements to help the spouse, in divorce, develop a proper court order. The information that TSP will provide includes:

  • Participant's account balance;
  • Participant's outstanding loan balance, if any; and,
  • Annual or Quarterly statements for the period requested.

 A subpoena is not required to obtain the info above.  A proper written request from the spouse, or the spouse's attorney, is sufficient.  A proper request must include:

  • Participant's name and account number OR social security number;
  • The name of the person requesting the info and the relationship of that person to the Participant;
  • A description of the information needed (e.

Read more . . .


Saturday, November 11, 2017

Finishing a Pro Se Divorce, or "Do It Yourself" Divorce Quickly


Just this past month, in October 2017, my firm helped four people finish a pro se (i.e. "do it yourself divorce" within a matter of days or a couple of weeks, depending on where they were in the process.  Each person came to my firm for two reasons: (1) either they got stuck with the paperwork or they'd completed the paperwork and didn't want to wait the 5 or 6 months the Bexar County Staff Attorney's office told them it would take before they'd get them divorced; and, (2) we offer these services at an affordable flat fee, which eliminates the uncertainty for the client.  Our flat fee always includes providing a certified copy of the final decree to the client.


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Sunday, September 24, 2017

Clarifying Former Spouse Military Retired Pay Orders so DFAS can pay the Former Spouse—Part 1 of 3


The Defense Finance & Accounting Service (DFAS) will reject a decree or domestic relations order (DRO) that attempts to award the former spouse a share of military retired pay if the decree or DRO’s language is ambiguous or otherwise fails to conform to DFAS requirements for a valid award expression.  The 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) levied more stringent requirements on decrees or DROs before DFAS can accept them.  Our firm has the expertise necessary to clarify your decree and/or DRO.  We’ve helped many a distraught former spouse obtain a clarified decree and/or DRO that permits them to get paid by DFAS.  Our firm even files the application for the former spouse (noting that a new application is required if the clarified order is submitted more than 90-days after DFAS’ letter notifying the former spouse of the need to obtain a clarifying order).


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Sunday, September 3, 2017

Close Attention While Drafting Orders Matters Because Some Mistakes Cannot Later Be Corrected


Attention to detail matters when first drafting a domestic relations order and entering it with the Court.  Sometimes—whether weeks or months later—a former spouse or alternate payee learns that a domestic relations order requires clarification before it can be accepted by the paying organization such as DFAS, OPM or a plan administrator for a private employer’s 401(k). 

In analyzing the task, sometimes it is discovered that certain information or variables in the original order are flat-out wrong (e.


Read more . . .


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Alamo Towers West, 901 NE Loop 410, Suite 800, San Antonio, TX 78209
| Phone: 210-762-4502

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