La'Rae H. Hendrix P.A.

"Military Divorce" what exactly does that mean?

Living in an area rich with military bases, it's no wonder you will find many family law attorneys advertising their ability to handle your "military divorce." But what exactly does that mean? As the wife of a retired Naval Officer who served 30 years (both as enlisted and commissioned officer) and a family law attorney, I can tell you that your benefits are very limited if you haven't met the 20/20/20 rule. In fact, the best way to explain your "military divorce benefits," is to say they simply don't exist unless you meet the 20/20/20 rule. So let me break that down quickly for you below.

The 20/20/20 rule means that you have been married to your military spouse for at least 20 years, during which the service member served 20 years, and your marriage overlapped. It's really that simple. Service for at least 20 years. Marriage for at least 20 years. The military service and marriage (of at least 20 years) overlapped, or occurrred at the same time. If this is the situation, then for so long as you are not remarried, you will receive the ability to utilize the commissary, exchange and Tricare medical insurance. Keep in mind the insurance coverage is not free, but it is available at the same low yearly rate a retired military service member now pays.

Taking that into consideration, there is one transitional "military divorce benefit" available to a ex-spouse if you are unable to meet the 20/20/20 rule. Specifically, if the military member served at least 20 years during which you were married for at least 15 years and they overlapped, then you can receive Tricare benefits for one year. You do not have commissary, exchange, or MWR privileges. (It is important to note there may be a way to extend this coverage under COBRA benefits through the insurance provider, but this is not a benefit provided by the military, you must meet certain criteria and like all COBRA benefits you are paying for both sides of the insurance so it can be expensive.)

Finally, if you have children, and they are dependents, regardless of the number of years your spouse has been in the military, or the number of years you have been married, the children will have continued health benefits through age 21 while the military service member is active duty or if he or she retires with 20 years of service. Additional benefits available to the children will depend on the military spouse's percentage of responsibility for support of the children. For example, as stated above, all children are eligible for Tricare regardless of the percentage of responsibility. Fifty percent or more, the child also receives MWR benefits. However, in no instance is a child eligible to utilize the commissary.

As you can see from the information provided above, when contemplating divorce, it is important to have a family law attorney on your side who has a thorough understanding of the programs and benefits available to the extended family of the military service member. To receive more important information regarding your rights as a spouse of a military service member, contact our office for a consultation.

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