Military couples ending their marriage face several federal and state laws. They should know about these laws and their rights to benefits.
Retirement pay is an important benefit issue when couples undergo a military divorce. Military retirement pay may be divided as marital property under the 1982 Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act. Courts can treat military pay as disposable and divide it under Arizona law.
Survivor benefit plan
A spouse or a state court may designate a former spouse as a Survivor Benefit plan beneficiary. A former spouse must elect for former spouse coverage from a military finance center within 1 year after the divorce. Remarriage before 55 ends SSP unless the remarriage is dissolved by death or divorce.
There are three ways for a former spouse to continue military health care coverage.
They may be eligible for TRICARE under the 20/20/20 rule if they meet the following conditions:
- Married for at least 20 years.
- The servicemember has at least 20 years of service.
- The couple’s marriage and a spouse’s service overlap by at least 20 years.
- The former spouse does not remarry.
- The former spouse has not enrolled in an employee-sponsored plan.
Under the 20/20/15 rule, the former spouse may receive up to 1 year of TRICARE coverage if there are only 15 years of overlap between marriage and military service. Remarriage ends these benefits, however.
Military spouses who are not eligible for TRICARE may seek coverage under the Department of Defense Continued Health Care Benefit. This is a premium-based, temporary health care. It may be applied for within 60 days after military benefits are lost. Coverage continues for up to 36 months.
Former spouses who meet 20/20/20 rule eligibility can continue to receive post exchange and commissary benefits. They may also keep their military identification.
Spouses who do not meet 20/20/20 eligibility cannot keep their military identification except as a keepsake or as photo identification.
A child who is a legal dependent of the service member after divorce may keep full military benefits. These last until they reach 22 or marry.
If a couple separates, all family members can continue to keep their I.D. privileges, TRICARE, postexchange and commissary benefits during the separation. If the service member is receiving a basic housing allowance, their spouse may be entitled to financial support.
Military divorce may be complicated because Federal and Arizona laws govern these divorces, service personnel are serving duty assignments and military families are constantly moving. Attorneys can help assure that spouses’ rights are protected.