Paycheck Chronicles

From The Mailbag: Notifying DFAS About Former Spouse SBP


While divorce is essentially a civilian matter, there are certain benefits and issues that are unique to military divorces, particularly if the parties were married for a long time.  This week's question highlights one of the most important things to know if you are divorcing from someone in the military.

Dear Kate,

I am recently divorced, and my former husband is required by our settlement agreement to provide former spouse Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) coverage for me.  How to I make sure he does this?

Thanks, Margo

This is a very important question, because messing this up could very well mean that the former spouse doesn't receive the SBP coverage that was awarded in the divorce.

Dear Margo,

I do hope that by "recently" you mean, "within the last year."  It is incumbent upon the former spouse to notify the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) of the court-ordered former spouse SBP election.  This must be done by submitting a copy of the court order and a DD Form 2656-1, SBP Election Statement for Former Spouse Coverage.  This information must be submitted within one year of the date of the divorce decree.

If it has been more than one year, and neither your ex-husband or you notified DFAS of the election for former spouse SBP, you probably won't be covered.  You may need to work with your ex-spouse to figure out fair compensation for the loss of that benefit.

I hope that helps,


Divorces that involve military benefits require the expertise of a lawyer who thoroughly understands the aspects of military benefits and how one aspect can impact other aspects of the settlement agreement and final terms of divorce.  This is an area where you don't want to do-it-yourself.  Getting the right help now will prevent regret and difficulties in the future.

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