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A court order directing the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) must follow a shared payment approach. Therefore, payments will be made to the former spouse when the member actually retires and begins receiving benefits. These benefits will be paid to the former spouse for as long as the member is alive. Upon the memberís death, all payments to the former spouse will stop. However, it is possible to designate the former spouse as the beneficiary of the Survivor Benefit Plan. In this case, upon the memberís death, the former spouse would begin receiving the survivor benefit available under the survivor benefit plan.
Understanding the Military Retirement System (MRS)
10 Year Rule
In order for a former spouse to receive payments directly from the (DFAS), the member and former spouse must have been married for 10 years during which the member was performing military service creditable towards his/her retirement. In other words, if the marriage did not last for 10 years which coincide with 10 years of military service on the part of the member, DFAS will not honor an order awarding benefits to the former spouse.
However, just because the 10 Year Rule is not met does not mean that a former spouse does not have a claim against retired pay. According to the laws of most states, retirement benefits accumulated during the period of marriage are deemed marital or community property. Therefore, it is possible for a former spouse to be awarded a portion of the memberís retirement. However, the former spouse would have to receive his/her interest in the retirement benefits elsewhere (i.e. equity in the home, cash, payment made directly from the member, etc.).
In order to maintain eligibility for the survivor benefit plan, the former spouse must not remarry prior to reaching age 55. If the former spouse remarries prior reaching age 55, the former spouse may still be entitled to receive a portion of the memberís retirement benefit, however, eligibility for the survivor benefit will be forfeited.
One Year Rule for Survivor Benefit Election
In order for the former spouse to remain eligible for survivor benefit plan coverage, the member must make an affirmative election for such coverage within one year of the date of the decree of divorce, dissolution or annulment. If the member neglects or refuses to make such affirmative election it is possible to protect the former spouseís entitlement to the SBP coverage by having the former spouse make a "deemed election" for such coverage within the one year time limit. Accordingly, the member shall be deemed to have made the necessary elections thereby preserving the former spouseís entitlement to the SBP coverage.
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