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Getting a divorce when you are a military spouse

Divorce can often leave you feeling unprepared and unsure what to do next. If you are a military spouse, you have been entitled to certain benefits through your partner’s service time. Now that you are splitting up, you may be wondering whether you are still eligible for those benefits.


Finding an attorney

Though the military has legal assistance attorneys, generally these attorneys cannot represent a civilian spouse in the case of a divorce. They can provide help with things like legal documents or answering questions. Depending on the complexity and nature of your divorce, it may be in your best interests to hire a civilian lawyer, who specializes in family law.

What is the 20/20/20 rule?

You likely have your medical benefits through a program called TRICARE. If you and your spouse have children, the children will continue to receive coverage under TRICARE in circumstances of divorce. However, as a civilian partner, you will no longer receive coverage when you divorce, unless you meet the 20/20/20 rule or the 20/20/15 rule.

Military law defines the former spouse of a service member as a dependent, which means the spouse may be entitled to military benefits. The 20/20/20 rule means you need to have been married for 20 years, the service member has 20 years of service and the years of marriage and service time must overlap by 20 years. If you meet these requirements, then you are entitled to continue to receiving your medical benefits through TRICARE, as well as commissary and exchange privileges.

If the 20/20/20 rule does not apply to you, you may qualify for the 20/20/15 rule. It has all the same stipulations, but you need only have an overlap of 15 years. This will also allow you to continue your TRICARE benefits. You are only eligible for either option provided you have not remarried or could receive insurance through an employer.

What is the 10/10 rule?

The 10/10 rule guides the dispersion of your spouse’s military retirement pay. The first 10 refers to a couple being married for 10 years, and the second refers to the service person being in the military for 10 years while the couple was married. If this applies to you, the Defense Finance and Accounting Services pays the former spouse his or her share of the military pension. However, if you do not meet all the conditions for the 10/10 rule, the court may still award you a part of the pension. In that scenario, the partner in the military must pay the other spouse directly.

If you remarry

If you decide to remarry, you will lose your TRICARE benefits. However, any retirement pay benefits remain intact. The pension benefits are considered part of your marital property.

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