Military Divorce: Former Spouse Suvivor Benefit Plan (SBP) Is Not Always Available

First, you should know that the former spouse’s military retired pay payments stop when the servicemember dies.  Former spouse SBP is a purchased annuity that, if available, can replace that stream of payments.  To have former spouse SBP protection, it must have been ordered as part of your decree and applied for in a timely manner

There are two scenarios where former spouse SBP cannot be awarded as part of a military divorce, as follows:

  1. Spouse SPB was not elected by the servicemember at time of retirement (which would have required the spouse’s consent); and,
  2. Former spouse SBP was awarded to a prior spouse in a prior divorce; the annuity cannot be split or awarded twice.  The early bird gets the whole worm.

You–and your divorce attorney–should know that any attempt to have the court order the servicemember to make the former spouse the beneficiary of the servicemember’s SGLI or VGLI life insurance policies is unenforceable.  That fact has been established in both Federal law and a U.S. Supreme Court decision.  Given that fact, asking the court to order the servicemember to provide a commercial insurance policy or annuity are the best options to protect the former spouse’s financial security after the servicemember dies and former spouse military retired pay stops. 

For more information about former spouse SBP, speak with a qualified military divorce attorney

Author Jim Cramp is a retired active duty colonel and founder and principal attorney at the Cramp Law Firm, PLLC, serving clients in throughout the greater San Antonio region, across the United States, and globally.

Note:  For attorneys, see 38 U.S.C. Sec. 1970(g) and Ridgway v. Ridgway, 454 U.S. 46 (1981).