Being married to a member of the armed services is unlike normal, civilian marriages. It presents unique challenges other couples will never have to deal with. Not surprisingly, then, there are also differences between a military divorce and civilian divorces, with different issues and different questions which must be answered. One of those questions has to do with military benefits that spouses enjoy.
Commissary and exchange privileges
The Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act (USFSPA) is a federal law which governs benefits retained by a divorced military spouse. Whether a spouse continues to enjoy those benefits depends upon the time length of a number of factors. Known as the 20/20/20 rule, if the service member served for at least 20 years, the marriage lasted at least 20 years and there was a 20-year overlap between the service time and the marriage, the spouse will retain full commissary and exchange privileges for life.
The 20/20/20 rule also applies to Tricare. If it is satisfied, the former spouse will retain all Tricare benefits, including treatment at military facilities. Unlike exchange privileges, however, Tricare also has a 20/20/15 rule. If the service time and length of marriage requirements are satisfied, but the overlap is only 15 years, the former spouse will only retain Tricare privileges for one year after the divorce is finalized. If neither the 20/20/20 rule nor the 20/20/15 rule are satisfied, the former spouse will lose the benefit entirely.
While the USFSPA does not directly award retirement benefits to former spouses, it does provide a vehicle for those benefits to be paid if a California family court awards them as part of the divorce proceedings. Using the 10/10 rule, if the service member had at least 10 years of service and the marriage overlapped the service for at least 10 years, USFSPA will enforce any state-ordered property division involving the service member’s retirement pay.