How Does Divorce Affect Military Benefits?

When one or both spouses are members of the military, both partners are entitled to certain military benefits. However, when a marriage ends, many people are uncertain about how their divorce will affect their military benefits. Many of these issues are regulated under the Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act (USFSPA). This is a federal law that entitles ex-spouses to certain military benefits.

The USFPA can affect military divorces in several ways:

  1. Courts can now divide disposable retirement pay between spouses
  2. A non-military ex-spouse can receive some retirement pay directly from the government
  3. Ex-spouses can continue using some military healthcare facilities in some circumstances
  4. Ex-spouses can continue using commissaries and military exchanges if they qualify for the 20/20/20 rule
  5. Protections are provided for victims of abuse

At Patton | Pittman Attorneys, our Clarksville divorce lawyers have handled many military divorced. Below, we go over many of the benefits married military couples have and how they will be affected by your divorce.

The 20/20/20 Rule

Under the 20/20/20 rule, an ex-spouse of a military member still qualifies for medical benefits and base privileges for the rest of their life or until they get remarried. However, this only applies if you were married for at least 20 years, the military spouse remained enlisted for 20 years of service creditable for retirement pay, and there is a 20-year overlap between your marriage and military service.


TRICARE, the health insurance plan for military plans, is also determined by the 20/20/20 rule. However, if you do not qualify for the 20/20/20 rule, you can still receive transitional coverage (a temporary plan while you get settled) under the 20/20/15 rule. This is the same as the 20/20/20 rule, except there only needs to be a 15- year overlap between your marriage and one spouse’s military service.

Thrift Savings Plan

The thrift savings plan is a retirement plan where both employers and members can make contributions, similar to a 401(k). There is no definitive regulation as to how the thrift savings plan is divided in a divorce. Many factors go into this decision, and it is recommended you have an experienced attorney review your case to find out how much of this retirement plan you may be able to obtain in a court order.


You may be entitled to a percentage of an ex-spouse’s pension. Like a standard divorce, this will depend on several factors, including the length of the marriage.

There are three methods for determining how much someone should be paid in a military divorce:

  1. Net Present Value – The total amount currently in the pension.
  2. Differed Distribution – The amount of money that has been taxed even though no cash has been distributed.
  3. Reserve Jurisdiction – The court reserves the right to step in and make a decision regarding this matter at a later date. In a military divorce, this usually means that a ruling will be made at the time of retirement.

Need More Infor? We’re Here to Help

Obtaining all of the benefits you are entitled to during a military divorce can be difficult. At Patton | Pittman Attorneys, our experienced military divorce lawyers in Clarksville can guide you through the process and fight for what you deserve.

Call (931) 361-4477 to schedule a consultation with a member of our legal team today.

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