The Post 911 GI Bill, created by the Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008, codified at 38 U.S. Code § 3301, et seq as a successor to the traditional Montgomery GI Bill, is far more generous than its predecessor. And for that reason, GI Bill and divorce issues are a concern to spouses during the dissolution of marriage process.
The Post 911 GI Bill is an extremely valuable asset – in Colorado Springs, the 2019 benefits provide up to $159,688 in benefits, comprised of $97,908 for 4 years of tuition assistance, $4000 for books & supplies, and $57,780 for 36 months of a monthly stipend. For a complete breakdown of the benefits, see the new article in the Military Divorce Guide, Post-9/11 GI Bill Benefits in a Divorce.
Post 911 GI Bill – Voluntary Divorce Transfers Only
GI Bill benefits may also be transferred to a spouse or children, providing that the member meets additional eligibility requirements. 18 U.S. Code § 3319(b). And since divorce does not terminate a beneficiary’s eligibility, as long as the election is made during marriage, a former spouse may use the benefits after divorce.
The member may modify or revoke the Post 911 GI Bill transfer at any time. 18 U.S. Code § 3319(f)(2).
However, the fact that the member may himself/herself choose to transfer educational benefits at divorce does not mean the judge may order it. On the contrary, this $160K asset is beyond the reach of the court. Under federal law a state court judge may not treat the Post-9/11 GI Bill as marital property:
“Entitlement transferred under this section may not be treated as marital property, or the asset of a marital estate, subject to division in a divorce or other civil proceeding.”38 U.S. Code § 3319(f)(3).
What motivation would a member have to transfer to a soon-to-be-ex? Simply put, if the member is not planning on using them, he/she may use the Post 911 GI Bill as leverage to get other concessions in the divorce – so addressing the GI Bill in a divorce may end up being a win/win. Alternatively, a member who is paying child support or maintenance has an incentive to ensure the former spouse receives a degree and the higher salary that comes along with it to reduce those payments.
Post 911 GI Bill Benefits as Income in a Colorado Divorce
Though the court may not treat the benefits as marital property in a divorce, it does not mean that they are invisible to the judge. If the member is receiving educational benefits, the monthly stipend counts as income, although the tuition assistance and book stipend does not. For a complete discussion of treatment of benefits for the purposes of child support and alimony, see our recent blog post, or the Post-9/11 GI Bill Benefits article in the Military Divorce Guide.
Award-Winning Post 911 GI Bill & Divorce Attorney In Colorado Springs
U.S. News & World Report calls Graham.Law one of the Best Law Firms in America, and our managing partner is a Colorado Super Lawyer. Our family law attorneys have years of experience helping clients navigate the Colorado legal system. We know Colorado divorce & family law inside and out, from complex multi-million dollar property or child custody cases to basic child support modifications.
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