By MyBaseGuide Staff Member
Serving in the military is tough. Being the spouse of someone serving in the military is also difficult. Military spouses, or milspouses, often make countless sacrifices that go unnoticed by the general populace. Sometimes, military life just isn’t for everyone, and you may find yourself in the midst of a divorce. If this does happen, you should understand your rights and entitlements under the Former Spouse Protection Act.

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What Is the Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act?

If you’re in the middle of a military spouse divorce, you’re still entitled to rights and protections under this act. Going from military life to civilian life is as much a transition for spouses (and divorcees) as it is for military members themselves. The Uniform Services Former Spouse Protection Act (USFSPA) ensures that you maintain certain rights after your divorce, and there’s a lot that can go into it. The impact of a divorce is rough, but rest assured that the military will not leave the non-service member high and dry to fend for themselves. Here are some of the things that the act does for divorced milspouses:
  • “Allows state courts to divide disposable military retired pay between the service member and spouse.
  • Allows former spouses to receive a portion of retired pay directly from the government in some circumstances.
  • Grants some former spouses access to health care at military treatment facilities.
  • Grants some former spouses access to military exchanges and commissaries.
  • Grants benefits to some victims of spousal or child abuse.”
Wanna learn more about these benefits? Keep reading!

Divorced Military Spouse Benefits

What are military spouses entitled to in a divorce? There are many entitlements you should know about under the Former Spouse Protection Act. Several of these revolve around pay of different types. Explore benefits and pay entitlements below.

Military Spouse Divorce Alimony and Child Support

You’re eligible for both alimony and child support via direct payment from military pay centers if a court order was made or approved to be made from disposable retired pay. In the instance that the terms of the court order are satisfied or your former spouse passes away, direct payments will no longer be made. To be eligible to receive direct pay for alimony or child care, you must have a signed DD Form 2293 and a copy of the court order turned in to your designated agent via standard mail, email, fax, or certified mail. You will get a response from the Defense Finance and Accounting Service no more than 30 days after with their decisions.

Healthcare Services

Even after divorce, you and your children, should you have any, will still remain eligible for TRICARE health insurance under certain conditions, mainly concerning the length of your marriage. The 20/20/20 Rule states that you can keep your TRICARE benefits if you were married for at least 20 years, they were in the Armed Forces for at least 20 years, and the marriage and service period overlapped for at least 20 years. If you don’t meet this requirement, there’s also a 20/20/15 Rule. This rule states that you can keep TRICARE benefits for one year post-divorce if you were married for at least 20 years, they were in the Armed Forces for at least 20 years, and there was at least a 15-year overlap between the marriage and service period. If you’re still eligible based on the above rules, you can fill out a DD Form 214 at your local ID card office to keep receiving benefits. The 20/20/20 and 20/20/15 Rules also apply for access to commissaries and exchanges on base.

Survivor Beneficiary Coverage and Payouts

Something many people forget to ask when pondering, “What is a military spouse entitled to in a divorce?” is the idea of being a beneficiary to your former spouse. Your military spouse may name you as a beneficiary in the case of their death, in which case you will receive what’s listed under their Survivor Benefit Plan, in most cases. If your divorce is after their retirement, your coverage will be the same amount as their coverage (this is one of the more important retired military divorced spouse benefits to remember). If your divorce is before their retirement, the specific coverage will be determined by court order. If you remarried before age 55, you won’t be eligible for beneficiary payouts.

Moving Expenses

Many soon-to-be divorcees ask, “Will the military move a spouse after a divorce?” And while the answer is not always 100%, it’s usually a yes for most spouses. Typically, if it’s an out-of-state move, the military will pay for moving costs. If the move is in-state, it’s typically the responsibility of both divorcing parties to cover the move. If this is the case for you, then this will be something you should talk about during your court proceedings.

Free Legal Assistance

Your spouse’s installation’s legal assistance office should provide you with free legal assistance for your divorce. This includes mediation, notary services, legal advice, and separate divorce lawyers for military spouses.

Things You’re Not Entitled To

There are certain things that the Former Spouse Protection Act doesn’t cover. Unfortunately, for those of you who’ve asked, “Can a divorced spouse be buried in military cemetery?” that would be a no, as this isn’t covered under the act. Additionally, this act does NOT make it a requirement of courts to divide any military pay your spouse receives, award you a predetermined share of military retirement pay, or place a ceiling on disposable retirement pay that has to be awarded.

Former Spouse Protection Act Repeal

There have been some motions put forward in the last five years to make requirements for maintaining benefits like health care and commissary access a little more relaxed. The DoD suggested that Congress repeal the excessive marriage requirement in 2019, but the motion was never approved. However, this isn’t the only repeal that’s been talked about in the same conversation as the Former Spouse Protection Act. Many Veteran organizations think the law is unjust, as it can potentially blindside service members and take away large portions of their hard-earned retirement funds. So far, their outcry has fallen on deaf ears, much to the delight of many divorced military spouses. Regardless of the reason your marriage ended, barring any serious offenses or felonies, you’re still protected under the Former Spouse Protection Act, and it’s important that you know your rights and the law. You can learn even more about it right here.

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