In honor of all the veterans, I wanted to address a question that comes up specific to divorces involving service members, current and retired. If you’re the former spouse of a military serviceperson and you’re receiving benefits from the military as a result of your prior marriage, then you may have heard a lot of conflicting information about how remarriage impacts your right to continue receiving those benefits. There’s plenty of bad information and misconceptions out there, largely stemming from a misunderstanding of a federal law called the Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act (USFSPA), but you needn’t be confused anymore. Here is a simple guide to how remarriage interacts with your right to receive military benefits.
Receiving Military Retirement Pay
In 1982, Congress enacted the USFSPA which determined that military retirement pay may be treated as marital property subject to division in a divorce decree. The state of Utah has adopted this authorization as state law, asserting in the case of Maxwell v. Maxwell that disposable retirement pay earned during the course of a marriage is to be designated as marital property. 796 P.2d 403 (App. 1990).
This designation of military retirement pay as marital property is important. This importance stems from the fact that being designated as property means as it removes the retirement pay to which you may be entitled from the realm of alimony or other support payment. As such, whether you receive the benefits are not based on need, income, or other external factors but is rather seen as something you earned during your marriage and which belongs to you. Because the retirement benefits are seen as your property, earned through supporting a uniformed service person in their domestic life, your right to that benefit survives remarriage, so you can still count on receiving those benefits even if you marry again.
2. Receiving Survivor Benefit Plan Annuity Benefits
Survivor benefit plans provide a monthly payment (also known as an annuity) to the surviving spouse or former spouse of a military service person in order to help prevent the survivor from suffering through hardship associated with the loss of a serviceperson’s retirement income. These survivor benefits take effect automatically upon the serviceperson’s death and will be provided to whomsoever the serviceperson designated as their beneficiary.
The United States Congress has determined that if a recipient of Survivor Benefit Plan benefits remarries before age 55 then those benefits will be suspended during that marriage, but may be reinstituted if the marriage ends due to divorce, annulment, or death of the new spouse. If your remarriage occurs after you reach age 55 however, then you will continue to receive your annuity under the terms of the survivor benefit plan. As such, just remember that your right to continue receiving a survivor benefit plan annuity after remarriage is contingent on whether you’ve reached the age of 55 at the time of your remarriage.
Military healthcare provided through TriCare is one of the best, if not the best, healthcare plans available in America today, so it makes sense that people want to remain covered through this program. Unfortunately, in all instances, remarriage will terminate your right to receive TriCare coverage.
While this short guide covers some of the most common issues with remarriage and military benefits as a former spouse, we recognize that there may be other issues that you’re dealing with and need help with. If this is the case, feel free to contact Sentinel Law Group at (801) 797-3760 and discuss your unique situation and get the specific answers you need.