There are unique circumstances attached to a military divorce and laws that protect the rights of the military spouse.
The Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act (USFSPA) is an important guide that explains what a divorcing military spouse can expect in terms of retirement pay, insurance and more.
Eligibility for retired pay
The USFSPA, which became effective in 1981, protects the rights of active military members as well as the rights of military spouses. There are significant details to digest when reading the Act. Basically, it shows what former military spouses qualify for, including retirement pay, survivor benefits, insurance and numerous other issues. Under the USFSPA, retirement pay is marital property. When dividing it in divorce, the Act allows the court to treat military retired pay like a civilian pension plan. The amount of retired pay the spouse can receive must appear as property in the divorce decree and the marriage must have lasted for at least 10 years. During this time, the military member must have performed at least 10 years of military service. This is the 10/10 rule.
If the service member served 20 years or more, the marriage lasted at least 20 years, and the marriage overlapped the period of service by at least 20 years, the spouse is a 20/20/20 former spouse and can continue to enjoy full exchange, commissary and healthcare benefits.
A former military spouse who does not meet the requirements for ongoing healthcare coverage can still participate in the DOD Continued healthcare Benefit Program. This coverage is available for 36 months until the former spouse finds an alternate healthcare plan. The USFSPA provides further information helpful to divorcing military spouses.