With the great number of benefits the military members and their families are offered throughout their service, it is important to have a checklist to account for each of these benefits. Failure to account for even one of these benefits may result in a significant loss for you or your family during your divorce proceeding. Therefore, consult this list, and your experienced Pensacola Divorce Attorney to ensure each of your rights and benefits are protected and accounted for.
Military Retirement. The division of a military retirement plan is available in all divorces, unlimited by their duration. However, it is important to note that a non-military spouse’s portion of the retirement is limited to the length of marriage. Further explained, if you and your spouse were only married for 3 years and your spouse has served in the military for 8 years, you will only be entitled to the half of the amount of retirement funds accrued during the time of your 3-year marriage. You are not entitled to the full 8 years of service unless you were married during all of those 8 years. However, if you have been married for 10 years and the military member has served for 10 years, you will gain the added benefit of being able to directly receive your retirement portions from DFAS rather than your spouse.
Thrift Savings Plan. Thrift savings plans are defined contribution plans similar to 401ks. The funds accrued during the time of your marriage are also subject to division no matter the duration of your marriage. Just as the retirement plans, you are only entitled to the funds that accrued during the time of your marriage and not the entire account.
VA Disability Payments. Although VA benefits are not subject to division in any divorce proceeding, they are accounted for in the military member’s income. If child support or alimony is awarded, the court must account for the benefits received by the military member, even if not considered to be a marital asset. Further, if the military member defaults on these support orders, you will be able to attach a levy or garnish the payments made by the VA to the military member.
Post 9/11 GI Bill. This benefit can be a significant asset to a military member or their family. This benefit provides for $160,000 to be paid towards an education. However, this benefit is not considered to be divisible in a divorce. Instead, the military member may agree to share this with a former spouse who was entitled to the benefit during their marriage. Therefore, this item may not be divisible by the court, but can be used as a significant negotiation tool by the parties.
Survivor Benefit Plan. This benefit is similar to an insurance policy held for retirement payments. This plan allows for a military member to designate a beneficiary to receive a portion of their accrued retirement funds after their death. This is a plan that must be voluntarily entered into by the military member with monthly premiums. Further, for a former spouse to be named as a beneficiary and entitled to receive the funds after a divorce, they must have been married when the military member reached retirement age, they had a child together, or were married for at least one year.
Health Care. The treatment of health care coverage in a divorce proceeding depends on the length of marriage between the parties. If the parties were married for 20 years, the military member served for 20 years, and there is an overlap of 20 years between the length of marriage and military service the non-military spouse is entitled to continued Tricare coverage. If there is only a 15-year overlap between the 20-year marriage and 20-year service, the spouse is entitled to Tricare coverage for a year after the divorce. If neither of these time limits are met, or the year allotment of coverage has ended, the spouse is entitled to enroll in the Continued Health Care Benefit Program. This program allows you to retain the same benefits under Tricare, however, you will be personally responsible for the premiums instead of the military. This coverage is generally, more expensive than private plans and the former spouse is only covered by this plan for three years after termination of their Tricare benefits.
The Federal Government and military branches provide a number of different and unique benefits to their servicemembers and their families. These benefits must be properly accounted for in a divorce proceeding as they can ultimately provide income, or loss of substantial coverage. Therefore, ensure you are properly protected by employing the assistance of an experienced divorce attorney.
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