What Happens to Military Benefits After Divorce?

Daniel Noffsinger - Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The military attracts many young people and provides them with a number of incentives to marry. Like their civilian counterparts, military married couples share and enjoy health insurance and retirement benefits during the life of a marriage and are subject to division when the couple divorces. According to, the military is still characterized by high and early marriage rates due to both institutional pressure and support. Non-military ex-spouses receive the most continued benefits after divorce if they qualify for 20/20/20 benefits or 20/20/15 benefits. However, the elements to qualify are rigid and specific.

Military Benefits

Members of the armed forces and their families are eligible to receive the following military benefits while they are married. These benefits include healthcare, retirement benefits, the right to use military commissaries, access to military exchanges, child medical benefits (TRICARE), continued dependent benefits for children under 21 or 23 if they are students, and the right to live in military housing. The right to live in military housing depends on many factors including branch of service, pay grade, whether or not the service member is married and has children, and varies by location in the United States.

20/20/20 Benefits

To qualify for 20/20/20 benefits, the military marriage must have lasted at least 20 years, the military member being in service for at least 20 years, with 20 years of overlap between the marriage and military service. The non-military ex-spouse retains access to the commissary, the exchange, theater privileges, medical, and retirement benefits.

20/20/15 Benefits

In these marriages the military couple only has 15 years of overlap between the marriage and the military member’s service, and the benefits are significantly lessened. In this situation the non-military ex-spouse only receives medical insurance coverage for one year following the divorce.

Right to Live in Installation Housing Lost

Once the couple divorces, both parties lose the right to live in installation family housing. If one of the spouses moves out of the installation housing, the other family members will be required to move within 30 days.

Shorter Marriages and Shorter Service

All other non-military ex-spouses lose the majority of their military benefits when the marriage ends. Continued health care coverage is available through the Department of Defense Continued Health Care Benefits for up to 36 months after the divorce is final for a fee. If the marriage ends while the family is overseas, the family is eligible to receive a complimentary travel back to the United States with their family in order to restart their lives.

Spousal and Child Support

Divorce and family courts make determinations regarding alimony and child support. Military members are required to comply with any and all spousal maintenance and child support orders issued by Colorado courts whether the parties are still married or not.

Contact a Colorado Springs Divorce Attorney

If you and your spouse are in the military and contemplating divorce, contact Noffsinger Law, a Colorado Springs divorce attorney today for a free initial consultation. Call us at (719) 368-3688 or email without further delay. Noffsinger Law offers the highest quality legal representation in the areas of family law and criminal defense law, and having previously served in the U.S. military, we speak the language.