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Do I lose all benefits if my military spouse and I divorce?

On Behalf of | Sep 8, 2021 | Family Law |

Every marriage comes with its own challenges. Being married to a member of the military has unique challenges unlike other marriages. And in the case of divorce, questions arise that are completely different as well. There are certain benefits you had access to, as a military spouse, that you will wonder if you can keep.

Commissary and exchange privileges

The Uniform Services Former Spouse Protection Act (USFSPA) is the law which controls whether divorced military spouses retain the right to access certain benefits. Commissary and exchange privileges follow what’s known as the 20/20/20 rule. If the service member served at least 20 years, the marriage lasted at least 20 years, and there is a 20-year overlap between the time of service and the length of the marriage, the former spouse will retain full commissary and exchange privileges.

Health care benefits

Tricare follows the same 20/20/20 rule as commissary privileges. If the rule’s requirements are fulfilled, the divorced spouse will retain complete medical benefits following the divorce. However, Tricare also has a 20/20/15 rule. If the service member served at least 20 years, the marriage lasted at least 20 years, but the overlap is only 15 years, the divorced spouse only receives continued medical benefits for one year following the divorce.

Retirement benefits

The USFSPA does not grant a divorced spouse the right to receive a portion of their ex-spouse’s retirement pay. This right can only be given by the state divorce court as part the divorce proceedings. What the USFSPA does give is a mechanism for collecting the retirement pay when it is ordered, through the 10/10 rule. If the marriage lasted at least 10 years and the service member was in the service for those 10 years, the USFSPA will enforce a court order granting the former spouse a portion of the retirement benefits.