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Understanding eligibility for benefits after a military divorce

If you are a member of the military or you are divorcing a member of the military who is contemplating divorce, you may have many questions. Many people involved in military divorces have similar concerns, and have questions about whether the nonmilitary spouse in the marriage can maintain access to military benefits once the marriage ends.

Ultimately, several factors come into play when determining your military benefit eligibility or those of your soon-to-be-former spouse.

The 20/20/20 rule

Whether you or your spouse can expect to maintain eligibility to benefits such as TRICARE and commissary access depends on whether your situation fits the terms of the 20/20/20 divorce rule. This rule means that few people who divorce military service members can still utilize military benefits after the divorce. However, if you were married for at least 20 years, your military service member spouse provided at least 20 years of service, and your marriage and the period of service overlapped for at least 20 years, you can typically maintain access to military benefits.

There may be one exception in situations where the marriage and the period of military service lasted at least 20 years, but the two only overlapped by 15 years. In such cases, you, or your former military spouse, may be able to retain access to TRICARE for one additional year after your divorce finalizes. If both parties in the divorce share children, however, military benefits still apply for the children. It is also important to note that, should your situation meet the terms of the 20/20/20 rule, you, or conversely, your former spouse, will still lose access to benefits if the nonmilitary member remarries.

Even if you are unable to maintain access to military benefits following divorce, you may be able to pursue other options to help you as you get back on your feet. Speak with a family law attorney experienced in military divorce cases to learn more about the divorce process and what you can expect.

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