If you are a spouse of a military member who is in the process of obtaining an education, you have likely heard or been affected by the GI Bill benefits. However, if you are in the process of divorce from your military spouse and are dependent upon these benefits for financial assistance with your education it is common to worry if these benefits will be lost after your divorce is finalized. Speak with an experienced divorce attorney today to discuss your specific situation and ability to retain these crucial benefits.
The Post 9/11 GI Bill entered Federal Legislation in 2008 under 38 U.S. Code 3301, for the purpose of aiding military members and their families with financial assistance in obtaining an education. The benefits provided by this bill are: full tuition and fees associate with an in state public school, or up to $24,477 per year at an in state private school; a monthly stipend equivalent to an E-5 Basic Allowance for Housing at the with-dependents rate; and a stipend of $41.56 per credit hour with a max of $1000 per year for books and supplies.
The benefits provided by this bill may be used by active duty military members, veterans, or their families. However, you must meet certain eligibility requirements. If you are an active duty member or veteran, you must have served for 36 months in order to gain these benefits. In order to receive these benefits as a spouse, the military member must have served at least 6 years but no more than 16, agree to serve at least 4 more years, and then they may elect to transfer these benefits to you.
If you and your spouse went through this process during your marriage, or you have been contemplating on returning to school to earn your degree, these benefits can be important to your divorce. Therefore, we must note some key points under this federal statute. There is no automatic revocation of these benefits upon a divorce; however, this election to transfer these benefits may be revoked by the military member at any time. 18 U.S. Code 3319. Further, these benefits are prohibited from being treated as marital property subject to division. 18 U.S. 3020 However, the law does not prevent spouses from negotiating these benefits outside of a courtroom.
Therefore, if there is a disagreement regarding the benefits of the bill or even child support and alimony awards the GI Bill benefits may be a negotiable instrument to add to the discussion. With the GI Bill, a party may need less alimony, or after obtaining their education through this bill will be able to be self-sufficient not needing spousal support. With the amount of money invested in these benefits, it is a good bargaining tool to have if you are eligible. However, it is important to note if you and your spouse agree to transfer these benefits, it must be done prior to the divorce entry, as an election may not be made to a former spouse. Further, within your settlement agreement it will be crucial to implement a clause prohibiting revocation of the transfer by the military member, as they are permitted to do so at any time.
The GI Bill provides a significant amount of financial assistance to military members and their families. Therefore, if you have been dependent upon these benefits for your education it may be important for you to retain this asset after your divorce from your military spouse. Ensure you speak with your attorney and discuss the options available to you and value the GI Bill provides, in order to formulate a proper argument and negotiation for your divorce settlement.
Speaking to an attorney at our Pensacola office is free of charge, and we accept calls 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Call us at (800) 822-5170 or complete an online contact form to get in touch with a member of our team today.