A spouse of a military member at divorce must be aware of his/her rights regarding the division of military retired pay. The actual division of the pay is addressed in separate posts. However, once the spouse’s portion of the retired pay is awarded, the spouse should take steps to protect it. The survivor benefit plan provides a benefit to the former spouse if the servicemember dies (55% of a specific amount). The SBP must be specifically chosen, using the appropriate form (2656-1), in a certain time period. Without the SBP, the spouse would lose his/her portion of the military retired pay if the servicemember died.
The SBP must be chosen within one year of the divorce decree. If the servicemember fails to file the proper document in the time period, the former spouse may make a deemed election, but must do so within one year of the order providing for SBP coverage (which may be different than the divorce order). The former spouse should file Form 2656-10.
Spouse coverage under the SBP is not automatic-it must be specifically chosen, in a specific amount, with the proper form. Because the military retired pay is often the most valuable asset in a Wisconsin divorce, the former spouse must ensure that his/her benefit is protected.
A future post will discuss how the SBP is actually paid.
Attorney David Kowalski routinely works with servicemembers and former spouses to ensure that military benefits are properly addressed in a Wisconsin divorce.