Matthew Lane & Associates, P.A.

Division of Property and Assets in Jupiter, Florida

In awarding a division of property and assets, a divorce court cannot order a service member to designate a life insurance beneficiary. In Hirsch v. Hirsch the Florida Court of Appeal recently stated: "[T]he Former Husband, appeals a Final judgment dissolving his marriage to...the Former Wife...During trial, the Former Husband testified briefly that he maintains a group life insurance policy acquired through his military service in the Army Reserve. He testified that at the time of trial he had named as the policy's beneficiaries his children, his parents, and his fiancée. 

...At the conclusion of the trial, the court found that the Former Husband 'does have a life insurance policy available to him at an extremely reasonable rate' and explained that it would be ordering him to maintain the policy and name the Former Wife as the beneficiary...In 1965, Congress enacted the Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance Act (SGLIA) in response to private commercial insurers restricting coverage for service members due to the Vietnam conflict. Ridgway v. Ridgway, 454 U.S. 46, 50 (1981). Today, the Act is codified at 38 U.S.C. §§ 1965-1980A (2012 & Supp. 2013). Regarding beneficiaries, the Act provides that following the death of an insured, payment is to be made first, to the beneficiary or beneficiaries as the member or former member may have designated by a writing received prior to death (1) in the uniformed services if insured under Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance . . . .38 U.S.C. § 1970(a)...The SGLIA has been interpreted by the United States Supreme Court to 'bestow upon the service member an absolute right to designate the policy beneficiary.' Ridgway, 454 U.S. at 59. Accordingly, due to the operation of the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution, state laws interfering with the right to designate the beneficiary under a qualifying policy are federally preempted. Id. at 60 ('[T]he controlling provisions of the SGLIA prevail over and displace inconsistent state law.'); see also Hillman v. Maretta, 133 S. Ct. 1943, 1951-52 (2013) (applying the analysis in Ridgway to the Federal Employees' Group Life Insurance Act of 1954 because it is 'strikingly similar' to the SGLIA). The issue of federal preemption is a question of subject matter jurisdiction that may be raised for the first time on appeal. See Joe Nagy Towing, Inc. v. Lawless, 101 So. 3d 868, 873 (Fla. 2d DCA 2012)."

To speak with a divorce attorney in Jupiter, Florida, contact Matthew Lane & Associates, P.A. at (561) 651-7273.

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