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How military divorce differs from civilian divorce

If you are married to a member of the armed forces and you are now facing a divorce from your spouse, there are some key things you need to know. Military divorces have specific differences when compared to civilian divorces.

When you do not know how to approach these differences, you may be setting yourself up for the loss of potential benefits. It is crucial that you understand what is at stake so you can face your divorce proceedings with the most informed approach possible.

Military divorces and benefits

There are a variety of benefits that come with marriage to an active duty member of the military. One of these benefits is the military health care system, and another is the possibility of receiving a portion of your spouse's retirement benefits. These are two aspects of a military divorce that civilians do not need to address.

There are rules that govern how you may retain certain benefits after divorcing a service member. These rules are not always clear to navigate and you will benefit from seeking the assistance of someone experienced in handling military divorces. Furthermore, military divorces go through the civilian court system, not the military court system, so civilian representation may be necessary.

Military benefits after divorce

You may be able to retain some of your current military spouse benefits even after your divorce from an active duty service member. For example, the military provides a program for continued health care that you can apply for. This benefit can last up to 36 months following your loss of health care benefits through your military spouse. You do have to pay for this service, however.

Uninterrupted access to benefits, such as commissary and exchange privileges and health care without having to pay for it, is based on the number of years you were married to your military spouse. The 20/20/20 rule states that your marriage must have lasted at least 20 years and the service member performed 20 years of active duty service creditable for retirement pay, with at least a 20-year overlap of both the marriage and the military service. State law determines whether you will have the right to divide your ex-spouse's retirement benefits as part of your marital assets. 

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