Military retirement benefits are not handled in the same manner as private pension plans, which are governed by ERISA (Employee Retirement Income Security Act). Dividing military benefits as part of a divorce case is not easy.
Here are some helpful tips:
- Medical insurance: If there has been 20 years of marriage overlapping 20 years of military service, then an un-married former spouse may qualify for full medical benefits as a 20/20/20 spouse. For shorter term marriages, look to Continued Health Care Benefit Program (CHCBP) as means of providing health insurance coverage.
- Life insurance: In case one of the parents dies while child support or college expenses are still due, it is a wise idea to use a life insurance policy to provide for the payment of insurance proceeds as a substitute for child support. To ensure that the premium payor will not inadvertently or intentionally change the beneficiary to a new spouse, the beneficiary must also be the owner of the policy. It is important to remember that the owner of the policy is the one who must be informed by the company of any attempts to cancel the policy and must be advised as to nonpayment of premiums. With the exception of Service members Group Life Insurance (SGLI), most insurance companies allow a collateral assignment of ownership of the policy. Do not rely on (SGLI) for securing support; a 1981 Supreme Court decision says that a servicemember may choose whichever life insurance beneficiary he or she desires, regardless of court orders or separation agreements.
The best advice is to find someone “in the know” who can help you navigate the minefield of military retirement benefits. Continue to follow this blog for more tips on how to handle military retirement benefits.