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Understanding benefits eligibility after a military divorce

If you are a non-military member who is currently involved in a divorce from a serviceman or woman, you may have questions about whether you will still be able to utilize military benefits once your divorce becomes final. Conversely, if you are a military member divorcing a non-military member, you may be wondering whether he or she will still have access to your military benefits.

Military benefits, which generally include TRICARE health care programs and the use of military commissaries, can prove highly beneficial when you are in a military marriage. However, unless you and your situation meet certain circumstances, the non-military party in the divorce typically loses access to said benefits once the marriage ends.

The 20/20/20 rule

The soon-to-be-ex-spouse who is not a member of the military generally will not be able to maintain military benefit eligibility unless his or her situation meets the criteria outlined by the 20/20/20 rule. What does that mean, exactly?

To meet the terms of the 20/20/20 rule, which is necessary for the non-military member to continue to utilize military benefits after the divorce, the marriage between the two of your must have lasted 20 years or longer. Furthermore, the military member in the marriage must have devoted at least 20 years to military service, and those 20 years of marriage and the 20 years of military service must overlap for at least 20 years for the non-military party to retain benefit eligibility.


If, however, your marriage and the military member’s service lasted at least 20 years, but the two only overlapped by 15 years, the non-military member may be able to qualify for one additional year of TRICARE after divorce.

Even if you or your soon-to-be-former spouse will not be able to use military benefits after the divorce, other arrangements may exist that fit your needs. Additionally, any children the two of you share still have access to military benefits, even if your situation does not meet the 20/20/20 rule criteria.

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