RPM Law

What happens to the other military benefits in a divorce?

Without a doubt, military families face challenges that civilian families never will. In some cases, this makes them stronger, but in others, it can cause a breakdown in the marriage that leads to divorce.

When a military couple divorces, they must resolve all of the same issues civilian couples do, but perhaps not in the same way. The issue of retirement follows federal law, and the state can only do so much. Custody issues take on an added dimension due to possible deployments and relocation. When addressing such large and important issues, it can be easy to forget to address smaller, but possibly just as important, issues.

The other benefits

Being part of a military family comes with many benefits. During a divorce, the non-military spouse may retain some or all of these benefits depending on the situation. While it may be obvious that a non-military spouse may not remain in military housing in a divorce, the potential loss of other benefits is not so easy. The defining factors often have to do with the military member's time in service, the length of marriage and overlap.

A non-military ex-spouse may continue to use the exchange and commissary after the divorce under certain circumstances. Using the formula mentioned above, if the military member served at least 20 years, the marriage lasted at least 20 years and the marriage overlapped with the service by at least 20 years (the 20/20/20 rule), the spouse not in the Armed Forces retains these benefits.

Under this same rule, the non-military spouse may retain his or her ID card and access to TRICARE medical benefits as long as he or she remains single after the divorce.

The benefits are non-starters

A former, non-military spouse receives these benefits as statutory entitlements. Neither party should view them as bargaining chips because they are not. All he or she must do is meet the legal requirements. Considering the fact that many older couples divorce these days, ensuring you take advantage of these benefits becomes a crucial part of the divorce if it also involves military service by one of the parties.

Due to the complexities involved, it may be beneficial for both spouses to gain an understanding of the rules regarding what non-military spouses may seek in a divorce since time is of the essence when it comes to some of the issues.

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