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How are medical and retirement benefits handled in a military divorce?

On Behalf of | Apr 30, 2022 | Family Law |

Those who serve in the military receive various retirement and medical benefits during, and in many cases after, their time of duty. When former or current military service members go through a divorce, there are additional considerations that deviate from typical civilian divorce proceedings.

These benefits impact both parties in a divorce, particularly if the marriage lasted for a specified number of years in conjunction with the military member’s service.

Military benefits for ex-spouses

In typical divorces, anything acquired during the duration of the marriage is marital property and is subject to equitable distribution when spouses decide to separate. Service members may participate in particular retirement and/or pension plans, and receive automatic benefits after serving for two decades.

In divorces, military spouses receive a portion of these benefits under certain rules.

  • 10/10 rule: former spouses see up to 50% of a service member’s retirement benefits, paid directly by the government, if the marriage lasted for a minimum of ten years and overlapped the military member’s active service for at least ten years
  • 20/20/20 rule: former spouses see retirement, healthcare, commissary and exchange benefits provided the marriage lasted for at least 20 years, overlapping the service member’s 20 years of active duty

These rules designate a legal entitlement for military spouses in the event of a divorce, specifically that they receive these benefits directly from the government. However, spouses are frequently eligible for military benefits even if they do not meet these requirements.

Divorce proceedings

Ultimately, spousal support is subject either to court order or an agreement made between spouses. These decisions depend largely on the length of marriage and unique individual circumstances.

In all military divorces, the courts award alimony, child support and marital property divisions, including military benefits, according to a variety of factors to ensure both parties receive equitable distribution of assets.