How do military divorces differ from civilian divorces? Part II
In our last blog post, we began discussing the military divorce process and how a divorce involving an armed forces service member differs from a civilian divorce. Specifically we mentioned the importance of understanding the possible implications of filing for a divorce in one state vs. another and also an active service member’s right, under the Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act, to request an automatic stay in divorce proceedings.
How the court’s view military retirement accounts and life insurance policies are also different. In the event a military spouse contributes to a Thrift Savings Plan during active service, a soon-to-be ex-wife or husband may be entitled to a portion of TSP assets. Much like a 401(k) or IRA, TSP assets can either be divided between spouses or given entirely to one spouse.
For a military service member who retires, he or she is provided the option to purchase a Survivor Benefit Plan and designate a beneficiary who will continue to receive the service member’s pension payments upon his or her death. If a retiring service member fails to purchase a SBP, he or she effectively forfeits the continuance of pension payments upon death.
Often, a divorce court will require that the service member purchase a SBP and name a former spouse as its beneficiary. For the civilian spouse, it’s wise to also request that the court send an order requiring “former spouse coverage” with regard to the SBP to the Defense Finance Accounting Service. Pursuant to the terms of the SBP, the civilian ex-spouse will retain survivorship rights to an ex-spouse’s pension unless he or she remarries before age 55.
Many people, including divorce attorneys, are not well-versed in how the laws that apply to military divorce differ from civilian divorce. It’s important, therefore, that individuals who are facing a military divorce seek the advice and assistance of an attorney who understands the intricacies of the military divorce process.
Source: Stateside Legal, “Divorce In Military Families – How It’s Different & What You Need To Know,” Jan. 5, 2016
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