Military Divorce And Your Family: Picking Up the Pieces

Divorce is a confusing, messy time for military and nonmilitary families alike. For the most part, a military divorce is not very different from any other. Divorce is a private civil matter, handled in civilian court. However, there are a few legal issues that are unique to military divorces.

Child Custody For Divorced Military Parents

Making custody arrangements is complicated for all divorces. It is even more complicated when one parent could be deployed or transferred, leaving a child in their custody without care. You will need to include specific plans on what will happen if the military parent is not present.

To make sure all children of military divorce are cared for, the military spouse must provide a Family Care Plan and give it to their commanding officer. A Family Care Plan names caregivers who will take care of the children if the military spouse is absent, how the children will be supported financially, power of attorney documents for caregivers, plus smaller details such as payment for travel arrangements.

Health Benefits After A Military Divorce

As you know, TRICARE is the military’s health care program for military members and their families. While you are married, the nonmilitary spouse is known as a dependent and is eligible for the free basic plan, with medical coverage and access to military medical facilities. After divorce, their eligibility for TRICARE benefits will change.

When you get divorced, the military spouse will need to update DEERS with a copy of the divorce decree. At midnight on the day of the finalization of the divorce, the nonmilitary spouse’s TRICARE coverage will end, though there are a few exceptions.

The 20/20/20 Rule

If you qualify under the 20/20/20 rule, the nonmilitary spouse can still use TRICARE benefits after the divorce. The 20/20/20 rule states that your marriage must have lasted at least 20 years, the military spouse must have been in the military for at least 20 years, and your marriage and their service must have overlapped by at least 20 years.

If you were married to a military member for at least 20 years of their service, you are considered a dependent. You are entitled to comprehensive medical coverage and use of military medical facilities and pharmacies. You can also still access commissary and military exchanges.

The coverage only ends if you get remarried or enroll in an employer-sponsored health insurance plan. Otherwise, the coverage stops when you turn 62, or become eligible for Medicare.

The 20/20/15 Rule

If you were married for 20 years and your spouse had served in the military for at least 20 years, but the overlap was at least 15 years and less than 20, you will qualify for the 20/20/15 rule.

You are still eligible for one year of transitional TRICARE coverage. You won’t, however, have access to commissary and military exchanges any longer as soon as the divorce is finalized.

When You Don’t Qualify For 20/20/20 or 20/20/15

Regardless of how long you were married, the Continued Health Care Benefit Program(CHCBP) can help the nonmilitary spouse transition to a civilian health plan. They can enroll in CHCBP within 60 days of the divorce and loss of TRICARE benefits, but it is not free.

Kids and TRICARE Benefits After Divorce

The military spouse’s biological and adopted children will still be covered after TRICARE following the divorce, until they age out of the program. Stepchildren are no longer covered after divorce if the military spouse has not adopted them.

If the nonmilitary spouse gets their own health insurance plan, the military spouse’s children can still be covered through TRICARE as a second payer.

The USFSPA and You: Division Of Military Pension After Divorce

The United Services Former Spouse Protection Act (USFSPA) makes it possible for the military spouse to divide their retirement pay with the nonmilitary spouse in a separation agreement.

USFSPA also allows state courts to treat military retirement pay as a marital asset, divided between the spouses in the divorce proceeding. There’s no guarantee that the nonmilitary spouse will receive any portion of the pension, regardless of the length of the marriage. The amount the nonmilitary spouse can receive varies from case to case.

Divorce is Hard — But the Documents are Easy!

NextGenJustice has helped many military customers get the legal solutions they need — including divorce. Contact us today or visit any of our five locations in New York or Florida to get started!

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Originally published at on November 13, 2015.

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