Navigating a divorce can be tricky enough, but adding military benefits can make it even more of a hassle. We had a fascinating case come through our office that deserves an article. Names, dates, and ranks have been changed. We have also received permission from this individual to publish this article.
Question: If a retired veteran seeks a divorce, does the spouse of that veteran lose access to their 9/11 GI Bill educational benefit--even assuming they were present throughout the entire military career?
Answer: The service member's beneficiary is designated through a military form while they are in the service. That beneficiary will not change unless the service member changes that form. Once the benefits have started for the spouse, they cannot be revoked. This benefit eligibility will last up to fifteen years after retirement. Short answer-- no, the spouse will not lose access to the educational benefits of the GI Bill.
General Mills comes to the Law Office of Bryan Fagan after serving twenty years in the Marines. Ooh-Rah! He is an honorable man and says, "My Wife and I have drifted apart. I have found a new partner, and so has she. We want a divorce, and I want her to get everything that she deserves. She is a good person, and I don't want to take anything from her. She wants to go back to school to become an engineer. Under the Post 9/11 GI Bill, she is entitled to receive 48 months of school. If we get a divorce, will she lose that benefit?"
General Mills wants to get a divorce but doesn't want his soon-to-be ex-wife to be screwed out of the benefits of the GI Bill. He wants her to fulfill her dreams of becoming an engineer; after all, she stayed by him during his deployments. She deserves to be successful and go back to school.
After thorough research, it all comes down to the military form. Which, go figure, almost everything in the military comes down to conditions. During his service, General Mills should have filled out a form designating a beneficiary for his 9/11 GI Bill benefits. So long as he does not touch this form after the divorce, the military will respect the designated beneficiary, and the ex-wife will complete her 48 months of school. It is, of course, his option to change this beneficiary, though a court could prevent him from doing so if the Wife argues for it in court. That was not the case here, but suppose it was. What happens?
Suppose that General Mills does not want his Wife to receive this educational benefit and instead wants to give it to Jarhead. His Wife contests this during the divorce. She will likely prevail as Jarhead did not earn this benefit. Suppose that General Mills wants to benefit his grandson, not related to his Wife—what happens? This is trickier and could go either way, depending on how it is argued and other facts surrounding this case. General Mills has a much better argument, and the Wife could be in trouble of losing this benefit.
Moral of the story. Check your paperwork. Save EVERY military form you fill out while you are in the service in a binder. EVERY SINGLE ONE.
Written By: Jacob Scholl
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Other Articles you may be interested in:
- The division of military benefits in a Texas Divorce, Part Two
- Military Divorces: Essential knowledge for Texas residents
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- How to Divorce a Spouse in the Military
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Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC | Houston Texas Military Divorce Lawyer
The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, routinely handles matters that affect children and families. If you have questions regarding divorce, it's essential to speak with a Houston, Texas, Military Divorce Lawyer right away to protect your rights.
A military divorce lawyer in Houston, TX, is skilled at listening to your goals during this trying process and developing a strategy to meet those goals. Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC by calling (281) 810-9760 or submit your contact information in our online form. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, handles Military Divorce cases in Houston, Texas, Cypress, Spring, Klein, Humble, Kingwood, Tomball, The Woodlands, Houston, the FM 1960 area, or surrounding areas, including Harris County, Montgomery County, Liberty County, Chambers County, Galveston County, Brazoria County, Fort Bend County, and Waller County.