Military Divorce Process
Members of the military face different challenges than civilians, and many of these unique challenges can put strain on a marriage, such as extended time apart, relocation, and the aftermath of time in combat. Like many other aspects of life, divorce is slightly different when one or both spouses are members of the military.
Here, we’ll add to our previous blog series on aspects of military divorce by providing an overview of the divorce process and discussing how divorce impacts Tricare eligibility, pension, and certain base privileges like commissary.
The Military Divorce Process
Just like civilians, members of the military must file for divorce in their county of residence with some exceptions and their divorce and terms are governed by the legislation in that state. However, the process can be prolonged or complicated if one spouse is stationed out of state or overseas.
Various aspects of military divorce (specifically how income and property are handled) are governed by the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act, or USFSPA.
For many couples facing divorce, insurance coverage is an important topic. If the spouse of a member of the military has been covered by TRICARE throughout the marriage and doesn’t have affordable, adequate insurance options available to them, it can be concerning.
Eligibility to continue coverage under TRICARE after divorce is governed by what the military calls the 20/20/20 rule, which means you can stay on TRICARE after your divorce, so long as you remain unmarried during that time if the following apply. 1) you and your spouse were married for 20 years or longer, 2) your spouse served in the military for 20 years or longer, and 3) your marriage and your spouse’s military service overlapped by 20 years or longer.
If the first two requirements apply (you were married at least 20 years and your spouse served at least 20 years) and these times overlapped by at least 15 years (slightly less than the above requirement), you may be eligible for a transitional coverage program offering insurance under TRICARE for up to 12 months so long as you remain unmarried during that time.
It’s important to note that TRICARE continuation is not an automatic process; you must register for coverage under your own social security number and name following divorce or your coverage will end. Failing to complete registration may make it very difficult or impossible to reinstate coverage.
In this case, the rule could be called a 10/10 rule; if you and your spouse were married at least 10 years, overlapping with at least 10 years of military service, than you may be entitled to receive up to 50% of his or her retirement payments upon retirement (or beginning in 90 days if already retired). If you don’t qualify under this rule, your spouse can still agree to provide you with retirement benefits in your divorce agreement. State courts still have jurisdiction over how pension benefits are handled in a divorce, so it’s recommended that you visit with an attorney about protecting your right to pension benefits.
Access to Base Privileges
The same 20/20/20 rule that governs TRICARE eligibility applies to your eligibility to access base privileges. If you were married 20 years, served 20 years, and there is at least a 20 year overlap between marriage and service, you are permitted to keep your military ID, use it to get military discounts from any business that offers such discounts, and access commissary facilities, base exchanges, and other base privileges.
Whether your divorce is seemingly simple or complicated, hiring an attorney is imperative to ensure your rights are protected throughout the process, your agreements will stand in court, and all relevant laws are followed during your divorce process. When selecting an attorney, choose somebody who specializes in family law and divorce and who is licensed in Massachusetts; these are minimal qualifications for adequate representation. To schedule your free, no-obligation divorce consultation, contact Infinity Law Group at 855-941-0909 or visit their website today.
To learn more about other aspects of military divorce including custody, child support, alimony, military housing, and more, read our military divorce blog series here.