Getting the GI Bill in Virginia Military Divorce

The GI Bill originated after World War II to help returning veterans go back to school as a reward for their service to our country. Over time, the GI Bill has changed and evolved and, in the wake of September 11th, the GI Bill changed again. Today, it covers the full cost of an undergraduate education at any public university or college in the country.
It’s also transferrable to spouses or children, which makes it a valuable asset in many military divorce cases.

Want the GI Bill for yourself or your children? You’re not alone.

With the costs of higher education rising, many former military wives are looking to the GI Bill, whether for themselves or for their children, as a major benefit in their divorce action. Whether the wife needs to develop some marketable skills of her own as the marriage ends or her chief concern is saving up for her child’s education, transferring the GI bill is a real possibility.

Is my husband eligible for the GI Bill?

A member of the Armed Forces is eligible for the GI Bill if he or she meets any one of the following conditions:
• Has at least six years in the Armed Forces on the date of election and agrees to serve four additional years in the Armed Forces after the date of election;
• Has at least ten years in the Armed Forces (either active duty or selected reserve) on the date of election, is precluded by either standard policy (service or DoD) or statute from committing the four additional years, and agrees to serve the maximum amount of time allowable;
• Is currently or will become retirement eligible between August 1, 2008 and August 1, 2013. (A service member is retirement eligible if he or she has completed 20 years of active duty or 20 years of qualifying reserve service.)
There are also some stipulations based on exactly when your husband (assuming he’s the service member) became or will become retirement eligible, so you may want to talk to an attorney to find out exactly when he’ll be eligible and if any additional service is required.

Who is eligible to receive the benefits from a service member’s GI Bill?

The GI Bill benefit may be transferred to the eligible individual’s spouse, one (or more) of the eligible individual’s children, or a combination of spouse and child.
Additionally, in order to be eligible, a family member (either spouse or child) has to be enrolled in the Defense Eligibility Enrollment Reporting System (DEERS) and be eligible for benefits at the time of transfer in order to receive any transferred educational benefits.

How much of the GI Bill benefit can be transferred to a service member’s wife or child?

If the service member hasn’t used any of his benefit, he can transfer it all! Basically, whatever is unused can be transferred to an eligible family member.

Are there any rules about when a spouse can use the GI Bill?

Of course—it’s the military! There are definitely rules.
A spouse has four rules.
1. She may start to use the GI Bill benefit immediately.
2. She may use the GI Bill benefit while the service member remains in military service, or after separation from active duty.
3. While the service member is on active duty, she is not eligible for the monthly stipend for books or supplies.
4. She has up to fifteen years to use the GI Bill benefit after the service member’s last separation from active duty.

Are there any rules about when a child can use the GI Bill?

Yup—there are a couple of rules you should know about, just in case you’re planning on asking for the GI Bill benefit for the sake of your child’s future education.
1. A child may start to use the GI Bill benefit after the military service member has completed at least ten years of service in the Armed Forces;
2. The child may use the GI Bill benefit even while the eligible military service member is still serving in the Armed Forces, or after the eligible military service member has separated from active duty;
3. The child may not use the benefit until he or she has attained a secondary school diploma (or an equivalency certificate), or reached 18 years of age;
4. Even if the eligible military service member is still on active duty, the child is entitled to receive the monthly stipend for books and supplies.
5. The child may not use the GI Bill benefit after 26 years of age (but isn’t subject to the same 15 year time limit that a spouse or former spouse is subjected to).
The GI Bill is a significant added value benefit in many military divorces and, because of its value, is often a source of contention during divorce. If you plan to ask for the GI Bill, whether for yourself or for the benefit of your child, you’ll want to talk to a licensed and experienced Virginia military divorce attorney as soon as possible. For more information or to schedule an appointment with one of our attorneys, give our office a call at (757) 425-5200.

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