How Will Your Divorce Affect Your Military Benefits?

As a general rule, the military considers divorce to be a civil matter that should be properly addressed by a civilian court. According to a recent study from Princeton University, service members are more likely to get married and have children at a younger age than their civilian counterparts.

A national study from the Military Officers Association of America and the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University found that 90 percent of female spouses were underemployed or overqualified for their positions. The report also revealed that military spouses earn 38 percent less than their civilian counterparts, and they are 30 percent more likely to be unemployed.

These studies alone paint a complicated picture of life for many military families, which is why divorce can often make matters that much more complicated. Your entitlement to benefits depends on the length of time you were married, the length of time your spouse served in the military, and the length of time your marriage overlapped with your spouse’s military service.

To retain full military benefits and privileges following the divorce, you must meet the requirements of the “20/20/20 rule.”

  • Both parties have been married for at least 20 years (from the date of the marriage to the date of the divorce decree).
  • The service member performed at least 20 years of service creditable for retirement pay.
  • There is at least a 20 year overlap of marriage and the military service.

The 20/20/15 rule qualifies former spouses to receive medical benefits for one year from the date of the divorce if the above qualifications are met but with just a 15 year overlap of marriage and military service. As you might imagine, these standards are fairly difficult to meet. However, you can retain your identification card and continue receiving your commissary, exchange, and healthcare benefits until the divorce is finalized.

What about spousal and child support?

According to Military OneSource, each branch of the military has policies that require service members to support family members upon separation in the absence of an agreement or court order. However, these policies are designed to be temporary, and they cannot effectively substitute a civil court order. To obtain support, you will need to request it through a civilian court and send the court order to the Defense Finance and Accounting Service.

Our firm has served military families in a number of different capacities, so we understand the unique challenges—as well as the unique opportunities—you face during this difficult time. Don’t hesitate to reach out to our experienced Maryland divorce firm with questions at 301.970.9286.

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