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Former spouse coverage under the Survivor Benefits Plan

The military retirement system provides service members with a generous pension starting from the day they retire. In the case of a military divorce, former spouses of retired service members can receive a portion of that retirement pay.

The Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act is the federal law authorizing courts to divide the retirement pay (as property in a final divorce order) that will continue for the life of the retired service member. The Survivor Benefits Plan provides continuing retirement pay for the former spouse in the event of the retired service member's death.

If a service member elects SBP coverage for a former spouse, a written statement must be submitted stating whether the election is in compliance with either a court order or a voluntary agreement. A former spouse must have been married to the service member on their date of eligibility to participate in SBP. Otherwise, they must have been married for at least one year in order to be a SBP beneficiary.

A common question is whether the former spouse is still eligible to receive SBP payments in the event of remarriage. If the former spouse remarries before the age of 55, the annuity will be suspended and may only be reinstated upon death or divorce. If the former spouse remarries after the age of 55, the payments will not be affected and the annuity will continue as usual for the duration of their life.

There is no difference in the calculation for SBP premiums for former spouse coverage and current spouse coverage. The SBP provides fornamed survivors - spouses and former spouses alike -- in the event of the service member's death and also protects them against inflation. The service member's retirement pay, premiums, and therefore, annuity payments will get an annual Cost-of-Living-Adjustment.

In the case of a military divorce, service members should consider how their military benefits will be apportioned, in accordance with the USFSPA, upon their retirement. Because of its potential application to former spouses, another important consideration during the divorce process is survivor benefits under the SBP.

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