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Survivor Benefit Plan

There are many unique aspects of military divorce and family law - survivor benefits included. The Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) is a form of insurance policy for military retirees, protecting a beneficiary upon the retiree's death. It is purchased with a monthly premium and results in a monthly beneficiary payment from the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) in the event of the death of a retiree. Without SBP if the retiree dies, then the spouse or former spouse will lose their portion of the retirement income in cases where the retirement was divided as property between the parties in a divorce, AKA dissolution, in Colorado.

Coverage

The parties can agree to coverage in a dissolution matter or family courts can require a service member to provide coverage for a former spouse under the SBP. However, the retiree can only have one beneficiary. This means that if the former spouse is covered, a new spouse or family can not be covered. This can, of course, create conflict between a servicemember's former family and new family. The SBP is a very valuable benefit as it is a continued income stream until the death of the retiree. Children can also be covered, either individually or through a parent. If child coverage is elected and a spouse or former spouse is also covered, the children must be the children of the covered parent. Thus if a former spouse is covered, the children from a new family can not be covered.

Coverage Amount

In the event of the military member's death, the covered spouse or former spouse receives a monthly payment of 55% of a designated retirement income base amount. This base amount is listed on the retiree's leave and earnings statement. A retiree may elect his or her spouse or former spouse as beneficiary, as long as they:

  • were married at the time the member became eligible for retired pay,
  • were married for at least one year at the time of the retiree's death, or
  • had a child together.
When Spouse or Former Spouse and Children Are Covered

If the former spouse is alive and eligible, he or she receives the annuity, rather than the children directly. In this scenario, the annuity received is higher than if just the children were covered and receiving the annuity directly, because it is intended to cover both the spouse and children. A child is entitled to receive the annuity directly, if covered alone, as long as the child is unmarried, and generally is either:

  • under 18,
  • under 22 and a full-time student, or
  • disabled

Eligible children receive the annuity in equal shares, and in the event of a child's death or eligibility loss, the remaining eligible children divide the deceased child’s benefit equally between themselves. The premium for the children's portion is very affordable, sometimes as low as a few dollars a month. The premium amount is calculated based upon the ages of the servicemember, the former spouse, and the youngest child.

Transfer Coverage

The benefit can be transferred upon remarriage or death of a covered former spouse. If the retiree is remarried at the time of the former spouse's death, the SBP coverage can be transferred to the new spouse by notifying DFAS within one year of the former spouse's death. If the retiree is not married at the former spouse's death but later remarries, the new spouse can be covered by notifying DFAS within one year of the marriage.

SBP is an important consideration in Colorado military divorce and should not be overlooked. If not addressed at the time of property settlement, SBP coverage for a former spouse is waived.

Janko Law - Is It Time for a Change?

Divorce and family law matters are difficult to navigate alone. The court system is more complex than it should be. With offices in Colorado Springs and Denver, we can guide you through the experience by handling pleading and motion preparation and filing, negotiation, mediation, and court proceedings from start to finish. This allows you to focus on moving forward to a better future rather than on trying to figure out how the overly complex court system works. Remember that change often creates new opportunity and a better future. Janko Law can help ensure that your best interests and the best interests of your family are protected. Contact us at 720-780-0115 or complete our online form to set up a free thirty-minute informational consultation.

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