Survivor benefits refer to the benefit that can be paid to the selected beneficiary following the death of the employee. This type of benefit is available in the context of a military pension plan. A survivor benefit is a marital asset that should be addressed in the context of a divorce. It is a separate asset than the pension itself such that a spouse could receive a portion of the actual pension as well as the survivor benefit. The participant spouse must elect a survivor benefit plan at the time of retirement. This is because there is a cost for the survivor benefit plan which is paid through a reduction of the base amount for the benefit. Presently, there is a cost of 6.5% the base pay to elect a survivor benefit plan.
Retirement benefits can be a substantial asset up for division in the context of a divorce action. The same is true in the case of military retirement benefits. There is a certain time requirement for service in order to be eligible for military retirement. Once this threshold is reached, a spouse is then entitled to their share of the military retirement benefits no matter how insignificant. Under the ten year rule, where the parties have been married for 10 years and the service member has accumulated 10 years of service, DFAS (Defense Finance and Accounting Services) can pay the spouse directly. When the ten year rule has not been met, the spouse can still receive a portion of the military retirement benefits however the service member will be responsible to pay the spouse themselves. A court can only award a division of a military pension if it has jurisdiction over the service member via residence, domicile or consent.