Each branch of the military has its own complex set of rules regarding everything from where you can live to what you can wear when you are off base. It makes sense, then, that one of the most widely used rules for military divorce — the 20/20/20 rule — would also cause significant confusion.
Per MilitaryBenefits.info, the 20/20/20 rule dictates whether you, as a military spouse, qualify for military benefits post-divorce. Though you enjoy several benefits as a dependent, the issues divorcing spouses concern themselves with most include continued coverage under TRICARE and military retirement pay. Before you delve too deep into the type of benefits to which the 20/20/20 rule entitles you, you must first understand how it works.
The 20/20/20 rule
For most divorcing military dependents, whether or not they will receive continued access to military benefits is a non-issue. This is because all branches only extend continued access to spouses who meet the 20/20/20 rule requirements. Those requirements are as follows:
- The couple must have been married for 20 years AND
- The military member must have at least 20 years of service under his or her belt that qualify for retirement pay AND
- There must be a 20-year overlap between the military service and the marriage
If you meet these requirements, military rules entitle you to continued military benefits. However, if you remarry, your 20/20/20 benefits will cease immediately. If you choose not to remarry, though, you can enjoy access for the remainder of your life.
Benefits eligible to you under the 20/20/20 rule
If you meet the 20/20/20 rule’s strict requirements, the military will treat you as if you still have mil spouse status. You can keep your DoD military ID card, which grants you the same rights as a current military spouse, such as access to the Base Exchanges and Commissary facilities. You may possibly even enjoy discounts from private businesses. You can also continue to use TRICARE which, for most divorced mil spouses, is the greatest benefit.
However, continuation of your TRICARE benefits is not automatic. To continue to receive care, you must register under your own name and with your Social Security Number. You must also present your original marriage certificate, proof of divorce and applicable proof of your ex’s military service or retirement from the service.
The 20/20/20 rule does not dictate what becomes of military retirement benefits. Rather, the civilian judge presiding over your case will use state law and the unique circumstances of your relationship to guide his or her decision.