The military offers servicemembers and their families many benefits. However, spouses that previously relied on these benefits may wonder what will happen to that support if their marriage ends. What happens to military benefits when a couple decides to go their separate ways?
What is the 20/20/20 rule? How might it impact post-divorce benefits?
The Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act (USFSPA) protects the rights of servicemembers’ spouses. This act allows the court to address military pay, pension and other details in divorce agreements. Couples that meet specific requirements maintain commissary and exchange benefits and health coverage as long as the relationship meets specific requirements. 32 CFR § 199.3 lays out these requirements — also called the 20/20/20 rule — which include:
- The marriage lasted for 20 years or longer
- The servicemember in the family served for at least 20 years
- That military service overlapped with the time that the couple was married for at least 20 years
Spouses married for a shorter period might still receive military medical benefits. Spouses whose marriage overlapped with military service for 15 years can receive full medical benefits for one year after their marriage. They can purchase a transitional healthcare policy after this time.
Are there options for spouses who do not meet these requirements?
Spouses whose marriage does not meet the requirements outlined by the USFSPA may still have support as they transition to the next chapter of their life. These people can receive support from the DOD Continued Health Care Benefit Program for up to 36 months as they seek out an alternative policy. Eligibility for this program is laid out in 32 CFR § 199.20.
Navigating the complexities of a military divorce can be challenging for service members and spouses alike. Seeking experienced guidance during this process can help you understand your options and protect your rights.