Rights and Benefits of Divorced Military Spouses

On behalf of The Law Office of Wickersham and Bowers posted in Family Law on Monday May 20th, 2024.

Unlike civilian divorce, which is guided by state law, military divorces have unique legal considerations. In particular, divorces involving active duty members of the military are guided by the Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act (USFSPA). The Act is a federal law, and it outlines both the divorce process as well as the rights and benefits of divorced military spouses. 

Financial Benefits

The primary aim of the USFSPA was to determine how disposable retirement pay for military employees should be handled in divorces. According to the Act, a service member’s disposable retired pay is considered marital property, just like in civilian divorces. However, the Act leaves it to the court to determine the former spouse’s specific share based on factors like marriage duration and service length.

Additionally, the USFSPA introduces a system known as the 10/10/10 Rule. The rule states that a service member’s former spouse may be eligible to receive retirement pay directly from the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS). The marriage duration must be at least 10 years and has to overlap with at least 10 of the service member’s years of service.

When it comes to child support, the USFSPA leaves it to civilian courts to determine how much a service member’s income can be garnished. However, the Act limits child support deductions to 50% of a service member’s disposable retired pay.

Healthcare Benefits

The healthcare benefits of a divorced military spouse are provided by TRICARE, the military’s health insurance program. A divorced spouse of a service member can receive TRICARE benefits if their marriage met the 20/20/20 Rule. That is, the marriage lasted at least 20 years, the service member served at least 20 years, and there was at least a 20-year overlap between the two. If these conditions are met, the divorced spouse may get to keep their military ID cards and get full health benefits.

Notably, a former military spouse can keep their health benefits even if they don’t meet the 20/20/20 rule. For instance, the spouse may also keep their benefits if they are disabled or have a child with a serious medical condition.

We Can Help

Getting through a divorce is not easy, but you don’t have to go through it alone. Our dedicated team of divorce attorneys at Wickersham and Bowers can help you determine and subsequently pursue the benefits you qualify for. 

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