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What benefits is a former spouse eligible to maintain when married to a member of the military?

Types of benefits available to a former military spouse

There are mainly four benefits available to a person formerly married to a military service member.

  1. Medical Insurance
  2. Commissary and Exchange privileges
  3. Military Retirement
  4. Survivor Benefit Plan

How can I get these benefits?

These benefits are available to the former spouse of a service member based on how long you are married.

Medical insurance benefit

You are only eligible to receive any extension of health insurance benefits if you are married to a service member for a minimum of 1.5 years while they are on active duty. This is commonly referred to as the 20/20/15 rule. The time you are married after retirement does not count. If you are married for more than 15 years, but less than 20 years, and have no other health insurance policy in place, you are entitled to one year of health insurance coverage from the date of the divorce.

It is important to note, the 15 year time runs from your date of marriage until the date of divorce. It is not based on your date of separation, only the time from the marriage until the date of the Final Decree of Divorce.

If you are married greater than 20 years to a service member, (commonly referred to as the 20/20/20 rule) you are entitled to medical insurance for your life as long as you do not have other health insurance in place.

Therefore, it can be important when divorcing to take the amount of time you are married while on active duty into consideration when having the Final Decree of Divorce entered. If you are very close to the above time thresholds, it may benefit both the soon to be former spouse and the military member to delay the entry of a Final Decree of Divorce to satisfy the non-military health insurance needs, particularly if the non-military spouse has health issues that might affect their ability to get insurance.

Commissary and Exchange privileges

Typically, only a spouse who qualifies under the 20/20/20 rule outlined above can maintain Commissary and Exchange privileges for themselves. There are no other exceptions for the non-military spouse. The non-military spouse must be married to the military service member for 20 or more years while the service member is on active duty to receive these benefits.

Therefore it is important to take into consideration the length of your marriage and the amount of time the service member has served in the military to determine if these benefits may be available to the non-military spouse.

The benefits above only apply to the non-military spouse, not any children born to a service member. Children are entitled to a different set of benefits, which are distinct from the non-military spouse.

Retiree benefits for former spouses

Retiree benefits for a former spouse have been discussed previously in an article on this website. Please refer to that article for a more complete discussion of the rules relating to those benefits.

If you have additional questions please contact me via phone, e-mail, or the chat feature on this website.

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