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Military divorce: does the civilian spouse retain any privileges?

On Behalf of | Sep 27, 2021 | Divorce

Being married to a member of the armed services comes with challenges that most married couples will never understand. But it also comes with certain benefits you may not want to give up. If you’re contemplating a divorce, it’s natural to ask the question: what will I lose and what will I keep?

Commissary and exchange privileges

The Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act (USFSPA) is the federal law which controls access to certain benefits for spouses who have divorced a member of the military. For the commissary and exchange privileges you enjoyed during your marriage, retaining them depends upon the length of your marriage and the time your ex-spouse spent in uniform. The ex-spouse must have spent at least 20 years in the service and your marriage must have lasted at least 20 years. Furthermore, there must be a 20-year overlap between the ex-spouse’s service and your marriage. If these requirements are met, you will retain full commissary and exchange privileges after the divorce.

Medical benefits

Tricare follows the same 20/20/20 rule – if there is a 20-year overlap between your marriage and the time in service, you are entitled to full medical benefits after the divorce. However, Tricare also has a 20/20/15 rule – if the time in service was at least 20 years and the marriage lasted at least 20 years, but the overlap is only 15 years, your entitlement changes. Instead of full health benefits for life, you will only continue to receive them for one year following the divorce.

Retirement benefits

USFSPA does not directly award you eligibility for a portion of your ex-spouse’s retirement pay. This can only be done by the state court that handles the divorce and subsequent division of property. However, if the state court does order that you receive some of the ex-spouse’s retirement, USFSPA provides the mechanism to enforce the court’s order. Following the 10/10 rule, if there were 10 years of marriage, overlapping with 10 years of service, USFSPA ensures that the portion of retirement pay you are entitled to is properly distributed.