In military divorce, being awarded a Former Spouse Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) annuity in your decree is not enough. The decree doesn’t create Former Spouse SBP coverage. It only creates the possibility of coverage.
Department of Defense regulations require that the former spouse or attorney file a “deemed election” within one year of the date of divorce. Failure to do so will result in loss of coverage. Too many former spouses have lost this valuable and hard-won benefit for failure to act in timely fashion.
Once the year lapses, a subsequent court order that “clarifies” the right to Former Spouse SBP coverage cannot revive the award. Failure to file a timely deemed election based on the initial decree is fatal to the cause.
When hiring a military divorce attorney, make sure the attorney’s services include filing the deemed election for you–in addition to filing the application for former spouse retired pay. The application for deemed election goes to DFAS-Kentucky. The application for former spouse retired pay goes to DFAS-Cleveland. Consult a qualified military divorce attorney if you have additional questions.
Author Jim Cramp is a retired active duty colonel and principal attorney at the Cramp Law Firm. The Cramp Law Firm provides a spectrum of family-related legal services in the greater San Antonio Region.