Divorce And The Military: The 20/20/20 Rule

by McConnell Family Law

Serving in the military comes with certain benefits, and during a marriage, the military spouse enjoys access to many of these benefits. However, this can also make a military divorce much more complicated than a civilian divorce; the non-military spouse may be unsure about which benefits they are entitled to, and the fight for pension and healthcare can get contentious. One “rule” that clears up military divorce is the 20/20/20 rule.

In this blog, we are highlighting our New Haven office, which is one of five convenient locations. The McConnell Family Law Group places a special emphasis on military divorce cases. Seasoned attorney Paul McConnell is a veteran still serving in the Marine Corps Reserves. In addition, as with all first responders, we offer a 10% discount to all veterans and members of our armed services. Call the McConnell Family Group today at (203) 344-7762 to speak with a skilled New Haven military divorce lawyer and learn more about how military pensions and benefits are handled during a divorce.

The Breakdown of the 20/20/20 Rule

Greenwich military divorce attorney

The 20/20/20 rule has three components. All three criteria must be met for you to have access to the same benefits as your military spouse:

  1. Must have been married for at least 20 years
  2. Spouse must have served in the military for at least 20 years
  3. 20 years of the marriage must overlap 20 years of the spouse’s military service

If a military spouse meets all of these qualifications, they get access to the same benefits as the military member for the rest of their life—as long as they don’t remarry. This means that they receive Tricare, commissary and exchange privileges, and a portion of the spouse’s retirement pay. They may lose these benefits if they marry someone who is not a military member.

The divorced spouse must sign up for Tricare under their own name and social security number; they do not remain on the spouse’s policy. If an ex-spouse is covered by the 20/20/20 rule, their portion of the military spouse’s pension is paid directly to them by the Defense Finance and Accounting Service. This is beneficial in contentious divorces, as it limits direct contact between the parties after the divorce.

The 10-Year Rule 

Even if a marriage does not meet the 20/20/20 rule, the civilian spouse may still get direct payments from the DFCS if the marriage lasted at least 10 years and overlapped with 10 or more years of military service.

Rule Criteria Benefits
20/20/20 Rule Married for at least 20 years, spouse served in the military for at least 20 years, 20 years of marriage overlap with 20 years of military service Tricare, commissary and exchange privileges, and a portion of the spouse’s retirement pay. The divorced spouse also receives their portion of the military spouse’s pension if covered by the 20/20/20 rule.
10-Year Rule Married for at least 10 years, 10 years of marriage overlap with 10 or more years of military service Direct payments from the DFCS to the civilian spouse.

How Much Alimony Does A Military Wife Get?

In cases of military divorce, the 20/20/20 rule is applied to determine the benefits that a non-military spouse is entitled to receive. For eligibility under this rule, the couple must have been married for at least 20 years, the military spouse must have served in the military for at least 20 years, and the marriage must overlap with 20 years of the military spouse’s service. If these requirements are met, the non-military spouse can access the same benefits as the military spouse for life, provided they do not remarry. These benefits include Tricare, commissary and exchange privileges, as well as a portion of the spouse’s retirement pay.

If a marriage falls short of the 20/20/20 rule, but lasted for a minimum of 10 years and coincided with 10 or more years of military service, the civilian spouse is still eligible to receive direct payments from the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS). Under the 20/20/20 rule, the DFAS pays the ex-spouse their portion of the military spouse’s pension directly, which can be advantageous in contentious divorces by reducing contact between the parties after the divorce.

Military divorces are complex, and it is crucial to seek the assistance of a skilled Connecticut divorce lawyer to navigate the process. Even if the marriage lasted less than 20 years, the court may still award the civilian spouse a portion of the military member’s retirement. Each case is unique, and the parties may choose to split the pension or exchange it for other assets during the divorce.

Finding Solutions in a Military Divorce

Even though this aspect of military divorce is fairly simple, military divorces, in general, can be very complicated. It’s important to rely on the help of a divorce lawyer, rather than hope that the court will see things in your favor. Even if the marriage lasted less than 20 years, the court may still award the civilian spouse a portion of the military member’s retirement. Every situation is different; sometimes the parties split the pension, and in other cases, one side gives up their right to the pension in exchange for other assets in the divorce.

When divorce is inevitable, proper support is crucial. When you choose McConnell Family Law Group, you can feel confident that everything we do gets you closer to “Finding Peace Through Strength.” Contact us at (203) 344-7762 to schedule your consultation. 

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