Setting A Precedent In Illinois On Military Survivor Benefits
A person in the military can only have one survivor beneficiary on a military retirement pension. That is usually the person’s spouse. In other jurisdictions, the courts would award the spouse the benefit if the serving spouse had accumulated the whole survivor benefit during the marriage.
However, under military law, if the spouse remarries before age 55, the non-serving former spouse would lose the benefit. If that spouse died before the servicemember passed away, the benefit would be gone forever.
About The Case
Before In re Marriage of Kellie S. Coviello and Jason R. Coviello, a case tried by our firm, , there was no Illinois law on the subject of military survivor benefits. In this case, Jason Coviello served for approximately 12 years before his marriage to his wife, Kellie. The parties were married for about 11 years, with three of those years in divorce court. Jason planned to remain in the military after the divorce.
As of the trial date, more than 50% of the military pension was nonmarital. Because military law does not allow the court to divide the spousal benefit, the court had to determine who should receive this benefit, the wife or the husband.
Since the survivor benefit has monetary benefit to the spouse, the court awarded life insurance on Jason’s life at his expense to be given to the spouse until their minor child became emancipated to make up for the value of the marital portion of the survivor benefit. The court awarded the survivor benefit to Jason since more than half was nonmarital.
Also, giving the spousal benefit to Kellie would have reduced the amount of monthly benefits Jason would have received on retirement. Jason would have received no benefits but disproportionately paid the monthly cost. This decision allows Jason to grant this benefit to any future spouse he may have if he so chooses or to a child of his and allows Kellie to have security in life insurance benefits to compensate for the loss of the survivor benefit.
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