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Divorce and the Military: The 20/20/20 Rule

Recently updated on February 14th, 2022 at 12:38 pm

The McConnell Family Law Group places a special emphasis on military divorce cases.  Both attorneys Paul McConnell and Matthew Crocket are veterans and still serving in the Marine Corps reserves.  In addition, as with all first responders, we offer a 25% discount to all veterans and members of our armed services.

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.

The Breakdown of the 20/20/20 Rule

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.

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 860-266-1166 to schedule your consultation. 

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