B-228766, Sep 28, 1988

B-228766: Sep 28, 1988

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Whose divorce from her first husband was not final. Her first husband subsequently died and her third marriage was to an Army member who later died. Her claim as the beneficiary of the member's Survivor Benefit Plan annuity may be allowed since her second "marriage" was bigamous and legally invalid. USA (Retired) (Deceased) - Survivor Benefit Plan: This decision is in response to a request by the Army Finance and Accounting Center that we determine whether Mrs. Woolworth was the legal wife of Sergeant Glenn L. We determine that she was his legal wife and that she is the proper beneficiary of his SBP annuity. BACKGROUND Sergeant Woolworth was placed on the permanent disability retired list effective February 19.

B-228766, Sep 28, 1988

MILITARY PERSONNEL - Pay - Survivor benefits - Annuity payments - Eligibility DIGEST: A woman, whose divorce from her first husband was not final, married a second husband. Her first husband subsequently died and her third marriage was to an Army member who later died. Her claim as the beneficiary of the member's Survivor Benefit Plan annuity may be allowed since her second "marriage" was bigamous and legally invalid, her first marriage ended with the death of her first husband, and she did not contract any other legal marriages until she married the Army member.

Sergeant Glenn L. Woolworth, USA (Retired) (Deceased) - Survivor Benefit Plan:

This decision is in response to a request by the Army Finance and Accounting Center that we determine whether Mrs. Joanne V. Woolworth was the legal wife of Sergeant Glenn L. Woolworth, USA (Retired) (Deceased), at the time of his death on May 10, 1985, for purposes of receiving the Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) annuity provided for by Sergeant Woolworth. For the following reasons, we determine that she was his legal wife and that she is the proper beneficiary of his SBP annuity.

BACKGROUND

Sergeant Woolworth was placed on the permanent disability retired list effective February 19, 1977. On February 17, 1977, he had elected "spouse only" coverage, based on his full retired pay entitlement, for his wife Edilberta C. Woolworth. However, that marriage was terminated by divorce on June 19, 1980. On March 21, 1983, he married Joanne V. Woolworth, the claimant in the present case. From the record, it is clear that Sergeant Woolworth was free to contract this marriage. However, due to the record of Mrs. Joanne Woolworth's marriages and divorces, the Army has asked us to determine whether his marriage to Mrs. Joanne Woolworth was legal. it was legal, the Army agrees that Mrs. Joanne Woolworth would then be the proper beneficiary of Sergeant Woolworth's SBP annuity under the provisions of 10 U.S.C. Secs. 1447 1455 (1982).

In regard to Mrs. Joanne Woolworth, the record shows that she married Everett R. Passo on October 7, 1967. She never received a final judgment of divorce from him but did receive an Interlocutory Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage on January 18, 1980. By its terms, this judgment did not constitute a final dissolution of marriage, and the parties remained married. Everett R. Passo died on December 14, 1981.

On May 18, 1980, Mrs. Joanne Woolworth married W. Edward Korzeb. She did not receive a "Final Judgment of Divorce" from this marriage until January 25, 1984. However, on March 21, 1983, she married Sergeant Woolworth and remained married to him until his death on May 10, 1985.

OPINION

From the record before us, it is clear that Mrs. Woolworth was still legally married to her first husband, Everett R. Passo on May 18, 1980, and that that marriage continued until his death on December 14, 1981. Thus, we find that her second marriage to W. Edward Korzeb on May 18, 1980, was bigamous and legally invalid from its inception. See Lieutenant Colonel John Tiernan Sharkey, B-228818, Aug. 4, 1988, 67 Comp.Gen. ***, and cases cited therein. Furthermore, since Mrs. Woolworth's first marriage ended with the death of Everett R. Passo on December 14, 1981, and she did not contract any other legal marriages until she married Sergeant Woolworth on March 21, 1983, we find that her marriage to Sergeant Woolworth on that date was legal.

Accordingly, we determine that Mrs. Joanne V. Woolworth was the legal wife of Sergeant Woolworth at the time of his death and that she is the proper beneficiary of his SBP annuity.