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Does a former spouse get medical coverage in a military divorce?

| Jun 19, 2020 | Family Law

There are many military service members and retired service members in the Maryland area. Unfortunately, some face marital difficulties that end in divorce. The military life can be difficult and people who decide to end a marriage will have concerns as to what the future holds. This is especially true for a non-military spouse who may no longer be eligible to receive medical coverage based on the spouse’s service. Understanding the rules for former spouses and medical coverage can help to prepare for the future once the divorce is completed.

Medical coverage for the military and former spouses is provided through TRICARE. For former spouses who are hoping to continue receiving coverage, the duration of the marriage and the service member’s record will be critical. There are two scenarios for coverage. They are the “20-20-20” rule and the “20-20-15” rule. The numbers signify the amount of time the service member was in the military; the length of the marriage; and the overlapping of the two.

With 20-20-20, the service member must have spent at least 20 years in the military; the marriage must have lasted for 20 years; and there must be an overlap of the service time toward the military member’s retirement. For example, if the couple got married when both were age 20 and the service member was in the military – active or reserves – for those 20 years, then the requirements are met for the non-military spouse to receive continued medical coverage under TRICARE. Once it is determined that the former spouse is eligible, there will be a new military ID card provided.

For 20-20-15, there must be 20 years of service for the service member; the marriage must have lasted for 20 years; and 15 years must have overlapped. This is an important difference from 20-20-20 as the coverage will be limited based on when the divorce took place. Starting in 1988, the non-military spouse’s eligibility lasted for one year from the date of the divorce. Those who fall into this category will need to consider their alternatives to get medical coverage after their eligibility ends.

Eligibility for TRICARE based on the former military member’s record will end if the person remarries (except in cases where the new spouse is also a military member); receives healthcare coverage through work; or was a former spouse of a NATO or Partners for Peace member nation.

Military benefits are frequently a contentious issue in a divorce. Since medical coverage is so essential, the former spouse will want to make certain their rights are adhered to. When a military divorce seems to be on the horizon and there are concerns about what the future holds, it is wise to consult with a law firm experienced in military divorce and the matters surrounding it.