SBP Former Spouse Coverage

Military divorce. Getty Images
Military divorce. Getty Images

The Survivor Benefits Plan allows selection of coverage for former spouses. Costs and benefits under this option are identical to those for spouse coverage. This web page highlights key aspects of former spouse coverage.

When former spouse coverage is elected, the current spouse must be informed. Only one SBP election may be made. If there is more than one former spouse, the member must specify which one will be covered.


When electing the former spouse option, a member must give the finance center a written statement signed by both the member and the former spouse. It must state:

a. Whether the election is made in order to comply with a court order; or, b. Whether the election is made to comply with a voluntary written agreement related to a divorce action, and if so, whether that voluntary agreement is part of a court order for divorce, dissolution, or annulment.

Benefit Payments

Benefits paid under this option are identical to those for spouse coverage except the annuity for a former spouse, whose divorce from the member was finalized before Nov. 30, 1989, is not reduced when the former spouse attains age 62 provided the member was already retired or retirement eligible on or before Oct. 1, 1985

SBP Costs (Premiums)

Premiums for former-spouse coverage are calculated identically to premiums for spouse coverage (see our SBP Spouse Costs and Benefits page). It is important to understand that in cases in which a former spouse is awarded a percentage of a military retiree's retired pay, and SBP coverage is elected for the former spouse (either voluntarily or involuntarily), the former spouse, in effect, pays a portion of the SBP premiums in an amount proportionate to the division of retired pay.  This happens automatically because divisions of retired pay are based upon disposable retired pay, which has already been reduced because of the SBP premium.  An agreement between a member and a former spouse in which the former spouse must pay the entire cost of the member's participation in SBP is a matter between the member and the former spouse.  There are no provisions in federal law which permit the Defense Finance and Accounting Service to withhold all SBP premiums from a former spouse's portion of a member's retired pay. If a former spouse is to bear the total cost of a member's SBP participation, the former spouse must reimburse the member by some other means. 

Inflation Protection

Like your retirement pay the SBP annuity is protected from inflation. Each year when retired pay gets a Cost-of-Living Adjustment - adjustments for inflation, known as 'COLA' -, so does the base amount, and as a result, so do premiums and annuity payments. Meaning that your premiums and annuity payments will increase with the COLA. These increases are determined by the previous year's Consumer Price Index and averages approximately 2.5 percent.

Tax Savings

Monthly SBP costs are not included in your taxable Federal income. The true cost for SBP is thus less than the amount deducted from retired pay because less Federal tax will be paid. This also applies to most state income taxes. SBP payments to survivors are taxable, but spouses usually receive benefits when their total income is less and the extra tax exemption for being over age 65 is applicable. The surviving spouse's tax rate should be lower and a long-run significant tax savings should result.

Former Spouse Remarriage

Your surviving former spouse may remarry after age 55 and continue to receive SBP payments for life. If remarried before age 55, SBP payments will stop, but may be resumed if the marriage later ends due to death, divorce or annulment.

Former Spouse Death

If your former spouse dies and you have remarried, or remarry at a later date, your new spouse can be eligible for SBP coverage. You must request a transfer of coverage from DFAS within one year of the death or remarriage.


Former spouse and children coverage may also be elected. The children covered are the eligible children from the marriage of the member to the covered former spouse. The children will only receive SBP payments if the former spouse dies or remarries before age 55. Eligible children will divide 55 percent of the covered retired pay in equal shares.

Special Note: Public Law provides that a participant is considered "paid-up" after completing 30 years (360 payments) in the Plan. This applies to a specific category of beneficiary (i.e., spouse), at a specific base amount (i.e., full retired pay).

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