Susan Rossi Cook, Attorney and Mediator

How are military benefits divided during divorce?

Knowing how military benefits will be divided during divorce may understandably be a top concern for divorcing couples when one or both spouses is in the military. Divorcing military couples should be familiar with both civil laws, which include divorce laws, and military regulations.

To understand how military benefits may be divided during the divorce process, it is helpful to look at different types of military benefits and answer the question as to how they will be divided. The Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act provides for military retirement to be divided as marital property during the divorce process. The Act does not specify how the property will be divided but allows for it to be divided as part of the property division process during divorce.

Additionally, a former spouse can be designated as the beneficiary of a Survivor Benefit Plan. The rule for health benefits is referred to as the 20/20/20 rule. If the former spouse qualifies, they are able to continue with their military health benefits. To qualify the divorcing couple has to have been married for 20 years; the military member must have at least 20 years of service; the marriage and the military service must have overlapped for at least 20 years; the former spouse must not have remarried; and the former spouse must have not enrolled in an employee-sponsored health plan. Additional rules may apply to health benefits if the couple was married for a shorter period of time so it is helpful for divorcing military couples to be familiar with what those rules are.

Former spouses who qualify for the 20/20/20 rule also qualify to keep Post Exchange, commissary benefits and their military I.D. Marital property division is important to understand whether it is military divorce or civilian divorce and understanding what to expect when military benefits are divided can help guide divorcing military spouses through the process.

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Susan Rossi Cook, Attorney and Mediator

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