Survivor Benefit Plans and Military Divorce: Defending Against or Claiming Former-Spouse SBP Coverage

Recording of a 90-minute CLE webinar with Q&A

Conducted on Wednesday, June 28, 2017
Recorded event now available

This CLE webinar will prepare family law attorneys to represent military spouses seeking Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) coverage and service members defending against SBP coverage for a former spouse in the event of a divorce. The panel will discuss strategies for service members or retirees attempting to deny SBP coverage to a former spouse, outline factors to consider in evaluating whether or not a spouse should demand SBP coverage, and review recent court cases dealing with SBP disputes in military divorces.


The SBP allows service members to provide for certain beneficiaries by purchasing an annuity that pays a defined monthly benefit upon the service member’s death. The benefit amount is a percentage of the service member’s retirement benefits and the beneficiary receives benefits for the duration of his or her lifetime. Service members must elect to participate in the SBP—typically at the time of retirement—and pay premiums based on the amount of coverage elected.

In a military divorce, an election for former-spouse coverage under the SBP gives income protection to a service member’s former spouse. However, SBP coverage can become a contested issue when coverage for a former spouse precludes coverage for a current spouse.

In many cases, the service member or retiree does not want the former spouse to have SBP coverage for a variety of reasons, including cost, marriage of short duration, subsequent remarriage, or the contentious circumstances surrounding a divorce. Spouses may automatically demand SBP coverage even when it is not the most effective method for ensuring an interest in the service member’s military retirement benefits.

Understanding the costs, benefits and implementation of the SBP and former-spouse coverage is critical. Practitioners must know the deadlines for application, selection of the base amount, and who will pay the premiums.

Listen as our panel of expert family law attorneys discusses the complexities of former-spouse coverage under the SBP. The panel will discuss considerations and strategies for counsel to service members and spouses seeking to avoid or claim benefits, drafting techniques for ensuring the settlement agreement protects the client’s interest in SBP coverage and benefits, and the key procedural rules and deadlines for making an effective SBP election.


  1. Overview of SBPs
  2. Former-spouse SBP election
  3. Drafting settlement agreements to address SBP coverage
  4. Strategies for servicemembers
  5. Strategies for spouses


The panel will review these and other key issues:

  • What factors should spouses consider when deciding whether to demand SBP coverage?
  • How have courts dealt with SBP coverage disputes?
  • What strategies can help servicemembers avoid SBP coverage for a former spouse?
  • What settlement agreement drafting techniques are most effective for avoiding SBP disputes?


Wm. John Camp, Atty
John Camp Law, Warner Robins, Ga.

With a focus on family law, Mr. Camp counsels military and federal civil service clients in addressing their family law matters, particularly in the areas of federal benefits, pensions, child support, and complex custody and visitation matters. He is a Retired Air Force Judge Advocate and has 43 years of experience as an attorney. Mr. Camp is a frequent speaker on dividing military and federal retirement pensions, among other topics.

G. Brentley Tanner, Partner
Sullivan & Tanner, Raleigh, N.C.

As a Board Certified Specialist in Family Law, Mr. Tanner represents clients in all aspects of family law including separation agreements, pre-marital agreements, post-marital agreements, custody and visitation, support matters, property division, Military Pension Division Orders, Certified Orders Acceptable for Processing, Qualified Domestic Relations Orders, and litigation. He has extensive experience with family law involving service members and spouses.


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