Survivor Annuity For Current Spouse When it is Listed in Divorce Decree From Previous Spouse

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If an annuitant is divorced and the divorce decree specifies that the divorced spouse is to receive a survivor annuity, how does the annuitant later provide for a survivor annuity for his new spouse after the previous spouse dies? Does he submit a “contingent” assignment as soon as he remarries or does he request assignment of a survivor annuity as soon as the previous wife dies?

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Posted by (Questions: 1, Answers: 7)
Asked on May 21, 2019 2:25 pm
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Here are a couple of responses depending on whether the former spouse was awarded the full survivor benefit or a partial. If you are not married at the time of retirement and the divorce decree awards a full survivor benefit for the former spouse, you do not elect a survivor benefit for the former spouse as the divorce decree does that. You would check the box that says NO on the retirement application to the question, are you now married. If you later marry, you can elect a survivor benefit for the newly acquired spouse and if your former spouse dies, the survivor benefit will revert to the newly acquired spouse. If the former spouse was awarded a portion of your survivor benefit but not the full amount and you marry after retirement, you would elect a survivor benefit for the newly acquired spouse for the difference between a full and partial survivor benefit and you will owe back for the difference in the cost back to the date of retirement. Again, should the former spouse die before the newly acquired spouse, then it will revert to a full survivor benefit. IF you are married at retirement and the former spouse was awarded either a full or partial survivor benefit, you still elect a survivor benefit for the current spouse and they would only be eligible for the difference between what was awarded to the former spouse and a full survivor benefit. If you marry after retirement, you will have only 2 years from the date of marriage to elect a survivor benefit for the newly acquired spouse.

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Posted by (Questions: 0, Answers: 497)
Answered on May 21, 2019 2:48 pm
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Thanks. I didn’t realize there are so many options, depending on timing. Let me be specific.
1. My BIL was married and had elected full survivor benefits at retirement. He and his wife subsequently got divorced. The divorce decree specified that he must keep her as receiving full survivor benefits.
2. My BIL subsequently marries my sister. He either assumed, or was told, that he could not elect survivor benefits for my sister because his former wife was entitled to them via the divorce decree. Obviously he could not authorize two benefits.
3. My BIL’s former wife died several years after he and my sister are married.
4. At her death, my BIL then attempts to elect survivor benefits for my sister but was told he has passed the deadline to apply because of how long it has been since he retired. He didn’t even know my sister when he retired and didn’t see how he could apply for benefits when they got married because of the existing divorce decree.
5. Should he have submitted a “contingent” application for survivor benefits as soon as he remarried or should he have been allowed to apply after his former wife’s death?
Maybe this is just be one of those times that the regulations don’t seem fair. Having paid a marriage penalty for the 8 1/2 years between the death of my first wife and my subsequent remarriage, I recognize that sometimes that is just the way it is.
Thanks again!

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Posted by (Questions: 1, Answers: 7)
Answered on May 23, 2019 12:23 pm
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A retiree who remarries after retirement has two years from the date of the marriage to elect a survivor benefit for the newly acquired spouse. Here is a link from OPM with that information. https://www.opm.gov/faqs/QA.aspx?fid=3f64bd3d-1107-44e7-9962-c8b652848f14&pid=6b89e043-5ce9-4970-944b-c95370753daf
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Posted by (Questions: 0, Answers: 497)
Answered on May 23, 2019 1:30 pm
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Thank you so much. I looked and looked but could not find that!

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Answered on May 23, 2019 1:46 pm
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Oops. I should have read the cite you provided before I responded.
I understand the two years after remarriage. However, the previous spouse was still alive for more than two years and the divorce decree was still in effect with the survivor annuity provision, so the new wife would not be eligible for a survivor annuity at that point.
Can the annuitant still file an election within two years of the new marriage even if it can’t take effect because of the existing election covered in the divorce decree from the previous wife who is still living? Is there a “contingent” election that he should file even though it won’t take effect until/if the former wife dies?
If not, it would seem to be a catch-22. He can’t file an election until the existing election for his previous wife is “cleared” with her death. If she dies 2 years or more after his remarriage, he would be precluded from ever filing.
Logically, it would seem that he would have some period (two years ?) from the death of the first wife to file for the new wife … but I recognize that logic does not always prevail.

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Posted by (Questions: 1, Answers: 7)
Answered on May 23, 2019 2:06 pm
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The former spouse entitlement has no bearing on the current spouse election. You have two years from the date of marriage to elect a survivor benefit for the new spouse even if the court order provides it to the former spouse. Should the former spouse lose entitlement then the election for the current spouse kicks in.

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Answered on May 23, 2019 6:46 pm
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That absolutely answers the question. Thanks again.

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Posted by (Questions: 1, Answers: 7)
Answered on May 23, 2019 7:31 pm

Can your BIL and sister divorce, then remarry to then elect the benefit for her as a sole survivor? Seems pretty ridiculous, but if that’s what it takes to satisfy the rule, then go for it. I can see where he would not know to do this initially. It’s very confusing and doesn’t always make sense to every day Life situations.

( at May 29, 2019 5:54 am)
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Some people are just smarter than others (smile). I would never have thought of that. I’ll suggest it. Thank you!!

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Posted by (Questions: 1, Answers: 7)
Answered on May 29, 2019 10:22 am
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Whatever election was made will be the only option available should the couple divorce and later remarry. In other words, at retirement you are married and do not elect a survivor benefit and your spouse signs and notarizes the appropriate forms, you cannot later divorce and remarry to have that election changed. larryh’s questions have never addressed the length of the marriage and if it is within the 2-year limit to make an original election.
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Answered on May 29, 2019 2:19 pm
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I think I did address the question. My BIL elected full survivor annuity for his then spouse when he retired. They divorced years later. The divorce decree required that he maintain the survivor annuity for the ex-wife. He remarries a year later but either was told or logically reasoned that he could not elect a survivor annuity for his new wife because the other one was still in effect and he could not have two The former wife dies 3 years later (4 years after his new marriage). He attempts to elect a survivor benefit for his new wife immediately but is told no since it has been beyond two years since he married his current wife.
It sounds like the previous posters advice about divorce and remarriage would be viable since he had the maximum survivor annuity when he retired.
Either he did not ask the right question initially when he remarried or OPM gave him bad advice. Either is possible.

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Posted by (Questions: 1, Answers: 7)
Answered on May 29, 2019 5:40 pm
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Another fact that has to be considered before going in this direction is if the first survivor benefit ended at the time of death of the former spouse and he divorces and elects for the current spouse, the cost of the survivor benefit, in addition to the cost of the divorce, will go back to the day the first survivor ended plus a surcharge. In other words, he would be paying as if he had elected a survivor benefit since retirement.

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Posted by (Questions: 0, Answers: 497)
Answered on May 29, 2019 5:58 pm
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Yes, I faced similar when I re-married after being a widower for 10 years later only to find out I was penalized for the 10 years I wasn’t married and before I had even met my new wife.
They would face a penalty back to the death of the former spouse which has only been a couple of years. The future survivor benefits could far outweigh that. I doubt they will do that but I would.

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Posted by (Questions: 1, Answers: 7)
Answered on May 29, 2019 6:08 pm