Divorced spouses of military personnel may carry a myriad of questions, especially about their prospective entitlements. It is essential to understand that divorcing a military spouse can have several unique factors not found in regular civilian divorces. This article elaborates on the benefits available for divorced spouses of military personnel, which often go unnoticed.
Understanding Military Divorce
Military divorce, similar to a civilian divorce, can dissolve a marriage, but with a twist. It often involves additional legal issues like military retirement, veteran benefits, and military child support. Hence, it is crucial to be well-informed about the legal rights and benefits of a divorced military spouse.
One of the most significant benefits a divorced military spouse might be entitled to is a portion of the military member’s retirement pay. Following the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act (USFSPA), a local court can award the former spouse a share of the military member’s retirement pay. According to the “20/20/20 Rule,” if the couple was married for at least 20 years, with the military spouse serving for at least the same period, and the service period and the marriage overlapped by at least 20 years, the former spouse is entitled to full medical benefits and a portion of the retiree’s pay.
If the divorced spouse meets the conditions of the 20/20/20 rule, they continue to enjoy full military medical benefits and commissary and exchange privileges. If they don’t meet these rules, but the marriage lasted at least 20 years, the military service lasted 20 years, and the period of the marriage overlapped the period of service by only 15 years, they still can receive medical benefits, but for only one year after the divorce date.
Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP)
Another benefit to consider is the Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP), designed to provide ongoing income to survivors after a retiree’s death. During a divorce, the military spouse can choose his or her ex-spouse for ongoing coverage. That ongoing SBP coverage ends if the former spouse remarries before age 55, although it can be reinstated if that later marriage ends by death or divorce.
If the rule of 20/20/20 is satisfied, the divorced spouse remains eligible for Tricare benefits, just like the military personnel. However, if the marriage overlaps with military service for 15 to 20 years, the divorced spouse will receive transitional coverage for one year. After that, they may purchase a conversion health policy that doesn’t cover pre-existing conditions.
Thrift Savings Plan
The military’s Thrift Savings Plan is similar to a 401(k) savings account and divisible between divorced couples. The amount that a former spouse might receive depends on the agreement of the divorce settlement.
Navigating the labyrinth of military benefits for divorced spouses can be complex and necessitates careful consideration. It is advisable to reference the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) website or consult with a legal professional who has expertise in military divorces for guidance. While not all divorced military spouses are entitled to benefits, the laws in place ensure the provision of protection in varying degrees. With correct information and the right support, divorced spouses can ensure they receive the benefits they are entitled to.
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