When a Wisconsin military couple divorces, the civilian spouse may receive a survivor benefit from the servicemember’s military retired pay. The SBP is not automatically established however. Certain deadlines must be met or the benefit could be lost.

If the servicemember is cooperate, or the court order so states, the servicemember should elect former spouse coverage by filing the proper form (Form 2656). This form must be filed within one year of the divorce judgment.

The servicemember may not always be cooperative, even if ordered to file this form. In that case, the former spouse can file a “deemed election” with a certified copy of the order awarding SBP (Form 2656-10). This form must be filed within one year of the order granting SBP coverage.   Note the different time limit—in some cases, the SBP order may not be the same document, entered on the same date, as the divorce judgment. In many cases, a financial order is filed well before a divorce is granted. In that case, the deemed election deadline may expire before divorce, leaving the only option to ensure that the servicemember meets the post-divorce deadline.

If a spouse fears a servicemember may not fully cooperate, it may simply be easier to avoid the issue and file the deemed election without asking the member to do so.

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