Do military spouses keep their TRICARE medical benefits when they get divorced from a military service member?

In most divorce cases the spouse of the military member will lose his or her TRICARE medical benefits on the day following the entry of a final decree of divorce, dissolution or annulment.

The 20/20/20 RULE

 If the former spouse meets certain conditions at the times of divorce, (see 10 U.S.C. §1072(2)(f)), then he or she can maintain their full eligibility for TRICARE medical benefits. These conditions are:

  1. Not have remarried;
  2. Not be covered under an employer provided health insurance program;
  3. Have been married to the military spouse for at least 20 years;
  4. The military spouse has 20 creditable years of service for retirement; and
  5. At least 20 years of the marriage was concurrent with at least 20 of the years of the creditable service used to determine the military spouse’s retirement.

The 20/20/15 Rule

There is also a similar 20/20/15 rule, (see 10 U.S.C. §1072(2)(G)). This rule applies for un-remarried former spouses who otherwise satisfy all the conditions as a 20/20/20 and were divorced prior to April 1, 1985, except that they have at least 15 years of concurrent time of the marriage with the military spouse’s 20 years of creditable service that occurred during a 20-year marriage.

However for 20/20/15 un-remarried former spouses who divorced after April 1, 1985, will have only one year of TRICARE medical benefits eligibility after the divorce, (see 10 U. S. C. §1072(2)(H).

In applying the 20/20/20 and 20/20/15 tests, it is important to know what periods of the military spouse’s service were “creditable” for retirement. These rules vary depending upon which branch of the uniform services the military sponsor served in and whether they were in an active duty status during this time or in a Reserve Component as well.

TRICARE benefits for Legally Separated Spouses of Military Service Members

Legal Separation is something of a grey area where TRICARE medical benefits for spouses of military service members.  A Legal Separation does not end a marriage.  As of the writing of this blog, the information available and case experience indicates that a military service member who is married either remains married or becomes divorced.  Since the legal separation does not end the marriage, the service member remains married.  The legal separation appears not to sever the entitlement to TRICARE medical benefits for the military service member’s spouse.

For more information about matters relating to Military Divorce please visit our Military Divorce page or contact our office at 360.471.3300 to schedule a consultation with an attorney to discuss your specific circumstances.