Divorce is a complicated matter, without adding in other factors. However, if your spouse is or was in the military, it might bring along other situations that must be taken into account––for example, the military benefits for former spouses.
The Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act
According to one military source, it is dictated by the act that:
The Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act is a federal law that provides certain benefits to former spouses of military members. An un-remarried former spouse may receive medical, commissary, exchange, and theater privileges under the Morale, Welfare, and Recreation program if he or she meets the requirements of what is known as the 20/20/20 rule.
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The 20/20/20 Rule
The primary rule is called the 20/20/20 rule. It has this name because it applies to former spouses who meet these criteria:
- The two parties were married for 20 years
- The military member served for 20 years
- The marriage and the military service overlapped by 20 years
The 20/20/15 Rule
The 20/20/15 rule offers only TRICARE medical coverage and for a limited period of time. Eligibility for 20/20/15 benefits require that:
- The two parties were married for 20 years,
- The military member served for 20 years, and
- The marriage and the military service overlapped by 15 years.
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What Are the Effects of Divorce on Military Benefits?
One or more of the following may apply to you:
- Installation housing — The former spouse will typically lose installation family housing within 30 days of the service member or other family members moving out due to a divorce.
- Moving costs — The military may pay the moving expenses of the non-military spouse returning home from an overseas duty station. The divorcing parties could negotiate the cost of an in-state move as part of the settlement.
- Health care benefits — When you lose TRICARE benefits because of divorce, you can buy up to 36 months of temporary health care coverage through the Department of Defense Continued Health Care Benefit program. To check eligibility and other information, visit the TRICARE website.
Biological and adopted children of the service member may receive TRICARE benefits up to age 21 (or age 23 if enrolled in college).
- Spousal and child support — Each military service has policies requiring service members to support family members upon separation in the absence of an agreement or court order. These policies are designed to be temporary. A commander’s authority is limited without a court order. You must send the court order to the Defense Finance and Accounting Service directing the government to pay monies for support or alimony.
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What Military Benefits Do Former Spouses Enjoy?
For detailed information on what happens to military spouses and their benefits after divorce, here’s a detailed discussion in relation to specific benefits.
What Happens to Military Benefits When You Divorce?
The impact your divorce will have on your military benefits depends on the length of your marriage, how long your service member was in the military, and how long you were married while your spouse was in the military.
What Happens to Military Benefits?
State laws can have some impact on military spouse separation. Some states can allow legal separation instead of divorce. You should talk to a seasoned Alabama divorce lawyer to get detailed information.
When a legal separation is an option in a jurisdiction (instead of divorce), the government (Department of Defense) treats such a scenario as it would treat married couples. As a result, if you are legally separated, you will still get your benefits. You are treated as a spouse until you finally divorce or after eventualities like death.
Legal separation can allow the legally separated spouse to get access to most benefits enjoyed by married couples. However, some benefits like military retirement are determined when entering into a legal separation agreement. As mentioned above, the legal separation period also matters.
There’s a lot of money involved in cases of military retirement for divorced couples. Retirement is easily among the most (if not the most) valuable assets a spouse can accumulate during marriage. Most importantly, it is considered a military asset that is usually divided after legal separation or divorce.
Military retirement can be divided even if a marriage has lasted for a short time. However, there are special rules based on the years of marriage. For instance, payment commences after a service member retires.
If there are 10 or more years of marriage overlapping military service, a former spouse will directly get their share. Payment can also be divided into fewer years of overlap; however, payments are typically sent monthly.
Main Military Benefits For Former Spouses
The U.S. military offers the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) as a defined contribution savings plan like 401(k). The TSP enjoys matching contributions from the military, replacing some traditional military pension plans partially. TSP is divisible in the event of a legal separation or divorce, and a former spouse has the right to roll over their share into qualifying accounts like Rollover IRA.
Veterans Administration Disability Payments
A former spouse can also enjoy VA disability payments in some instances (i.e., when payments count as income in the event there is child support or alimony involved).
Former spouses who meet statutory requirements can receive TRICARE whether a court orders it or not during a divorce. However, if the federal government chooses to deny former spouses such benefits, state courts can’t do anything to change.
However, former spouses should get CHCBP for some time (usually three years). The benefit is subject to some requirements. For instance, a spouse must remain unmarried. The former spouse also needs to have been awarded some benefits (i.e., a share of SBP or military retirement). Since CHCBP isn’t cheap (approximately $484 monthly), it may be better to buy insurance coverage that extends the benefit.
Post-9/11 GI Bill
As per the Post-9/11 GI Bill, there are special benefits (tuition, monthly housing allowance, and book stipend) worth thousands of dollars. The benefit isn’t just for service members. Members can transfer the benefit to spouses and children provided they meet certain requirements. Most importantly, divorce doesn’t eliminate Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits, provided a service member agrees that their former spouse continues to receive the benefits.
While members can agree to give former spouses the benefit, members may not be obliged to do so in some cases. Federal law can prohibit a state court from dividing Post-9/11 GI bill benefits during a divorce. To understand in-depth whether this benefit is applicable in your scenario and to what extent, talk to a seasoned divorce attorney with in-depth knowledge of military divorce.
Military Housing After Divorce
Generally, family members (which includes an ex-spouse) have the right to live in a military house for a certain period (usually 30 days) after which they should depart. However, a seasoned divorce attorney can advise accordingly on alternatives in case the 30-day benefit is inadequate.
BAH (Basic Allowance for Housing)
The military has guidelines that members must meet on living expenses for former spouses. For instance, a military member will be required to pay BAH for separate living conditions while a civilian court order is pending. The amount is determined as per the national rate, subject to some adjustments. What’s more, payments stop after divorce or because of a court order. A domestic relations judge decides on child support and spousal support if there is a court order.
To get specifics on the basic allowance and what you may be entitled to for housing, talk to a divorce attorney. Former spouses may not be entitled to this benefit in some circumstances.
Access to Military Installation
Non-military parents with children who are military ID cardholders can get access to military installations. Dependent children (aged less than 10) aren’t issued IDs in typical cases. However, in a divorce, they can get IDs as per joint regulation.
This applies in some cases (i.e., if the child isn’t living with a sponsor). Access to military installations comes with unique benefits like shopping at military bases at a discount and other recreational benefits.
Military Divorce FAQ
No one ever marries with the intent to divorce. As such, you may have many unanswered questions about what to expect going forward.
With this in mind, we have answered some of the most frequently asked questions below regarding military divorces. If you have additional questions that were not answered on this page, do not hesitate to contact our office to discuss your concerns further.
What Is the 10/10 Rule in Military Divorce?
In the military, the 10/10 rule describes the amount of time spouses must be married for one spouse to be eligible for military benefits. In this case, service members must serve a minimum of 10 years of military service for their ex-spouse to be eligible for military benefits.
How Long Does a Military Divorce Take?
It is difficult to determine how long it will take to finalize your military divorce. In some cases, when there are no complications, military divorces can be finalized in as little as a few months.
However, if one spouse is overseas or on active duty in another location, it may be difficult to get the divorce finalized. Yet, if either spouse contests the divorce, this may also delay the finalization of your divorce decree.
Can a Servicemember Slow Down My Divorce?
Servicemembers have the opportunity to slow down divorces. Although responding spouses must answer divorce papers within a certain amount of time under the law, the “Servicemembers Civil Relief Act,” (or SCRA) gives active-duty servicemembers the opportunity to delay their divorce proceedings if their military duties prevent them from responding to the court action in question.
Generally, the stay will be in place for a minimum of 90 days. At that point, the servicemember may request extensions, but the divorce will not be postponed indefinitely. Once a service members’ military duty no longer interferes with their ability to move forward with their divorce, the divorce could proceed as normal.
Do I Have to Work with a Divorce Lawyer on My Case?
While the law does not require you to partner with a divorce lawyer, here’s something to consider: divorces involving military members can be more complicated than divorces between civilians.
An attorney from our team can help with more than the divorce process itself. We can also help you craft a child custody agreement, request alimony, and determine what assets you’re entitled to.
You want to walk away from your marriage in the same financial standing you had before you got married. Our team is ready to help you do that.
How an Alabama Divorce Lawyer Could Help You
While the above information summarizes military benefits for former spouses, there’s obviously more to the direct and indirect benefits enjoyed by former spouses of military service members. What’s more, some benefits may be subject to special processes, like court interpretation. It is also possible to claim benefits that wouldn’t normally be available if you have good legal representation.
You want a divorce attorney with experience in handling military divorces to ensure you get the benefits you deserve. State laws and other unique circumstances can deny you rightful benefits. The specifics of your case also matter. Most importantly, the powers of a former spouse to grant or deny benefits are usually limited to non-existent.
Before accepting default military benefits as a former spouse, talk to an experienced divorce attorney first.
Get Help From a Military Divorce Lawyer in Alabama Today
If you are still hesitant about benefits or processes, a good way to proceed is to find a lawyer with ample experience in military divorce. If you are looking for one in the state of Alabama, don’t hesitate to give us a call for a consultation.
It’s not an easy process, but with the right family law attorney, you can leverage the ways that your situation is treated and come through the experience more financially prepared. Talk to a professional at Charlotte Christian Law now.