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Understanding benefits eligibility after a military divorce

Being married to a member of the U.S. Armed Forces has certain benefits. If your spouse is in the military, you may utilize Tricare for health benefits and the commissary for grocery shopping and related expenses. If, however, you are in the midst of a split from your military member, you may wonder whether you will still be able to take advantage of these money-saving options.

While there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, most non-military citizens who divorce their military member spouses lose the ability to take advantage of these benefits. However, there are some exceptions.

The 20/20/20 rule

Once your divorce finalizes, whether you retain military benefits eligibility depends on whether your situation meets the terms outlined by what is known as the 20/20/20 military divorce rule. What, exactly, are these terms?

First, to retain benefits eligibility after you divorce your servicemember, your marriage must have lasted at least 20 years or longer. On top of that, though, your military servicemember’s service term must also have exceeded 20 years. Meeting these two terms on their own, though, is not enough to qualify for benefits. To retain eligibility for military benefits after your divorce, that 20+-year service term and your 20-year-or-longer marriage must also have overlapped for at least 20 years.


If your situation meets some but not all of these terms, you may be able to qualify for one year of transitional Tricare starting on the day your divorce becomes final. To potentially do so, though, you still need to have had a 20-year marriage, and your partner still needs to have at least 20 years of service. However, those terms only have to overlap for 15 years for you to potentially get one more year of Tricare.

In other words, it can prove difficult for many people in military marriages to retain military benefits eligibility once they divorce their service member partners. You may, however, be able to seek support or assistance from your ex through other methods.

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