Ending a marriage can be complicated, particularly when one or both parties serve in the military. Under these circumstances, spouses can face numerous questions, from where to file their divorce to what their child custody might look like. However, perhaps the most complex issue could be what benefits — if any — a civilian spouse is entitled to receive.
Military benefits include retirement, health insurance coverage and life insurance. Typically, civilian spouses are just as reliant on these benefits as their servicemember spouses, and the thought of losing them can be upsetting. It can be crucial to understand whether those benefits will continue to apply to them after divorce.
The 10-year rule
If you have been married for at least 10 years and your spouse also served in the military for 10 years, you can be eligible to receive a portion of your spouse’s retirement benefits from the government per the 10-year rule, or the 10/10 rule.
This rule makes it easier for a civilian spouse to receive their share of the benefits accumulated during the marriage without having to rely on receiving a check from their ex-spouse every month.
The 20-year rule
The 20-year rule, or 20/20/20 rule, refers to health benefits provided to former military spouses after 20 years of service and marriage. Under these circumstances, an eligible spouse can continue to receive TRICARE health insurance coverage. However, these benefits only continue if the civilian party registers, and they will end if the receiving party remarries.
You might also receive other military benefits if you fit the criteria for the 20-year rule, including military discounts and services provided to those with a military ID card.
What if I don’t qualify for these?
If you divorce before 10 years of marriage, there may not be significant military benefits to divide. That being said, there can be other marital property and assets that are eligible for division.
Whether you are divorcing after five years or 20 years of marriage, it is crucial to understand what you may or may not be eligible to receive. You should not make any assumptions regarding the division of benefits and property in a military divorce, as these matters can be highly complex. However, legal guidance can help you understand your options and pursue a satisfactory resolution.