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The 20 20 20 rule in the military is a special rule that applies to divorcing couples where only one spouse is a service member. This rule determines whether the non-service-member spouse will be able to claim certain benefits after the divorce.

Know that having access to these benefits does not mean that they will automatically be conferred as part of the divorce decree. The specific wording of your divorce decree will determine these factors, so the eventual outcome could differ on a case-by-case basis.

If you have concerns or questions related to the 20 20 20 military rule or other military divorce matters, let New Mexico Financial & Family provide assistance. Our experience and knowledge can help you seek the optimal outcome for you and your family. Speak to us during a confidential, no-obligation case review when you call (505) 503-1637 or contact us online.

What Is the 20 20 20 Rule in the Military?

The U.S. military uses what is known as the “20/20/20 rule” for the purposes of determining whether a non-military spouse can continue receiving certain benefits and privileges. The numbers refer to the minimum amount of time required for these benefits and privileges to be retained:

  • The couple must have had at least 20 years of marriage
  • The service member must have served for a total of at least 20 years
  • The marriage must overlap with at least 20 years of service

When the conditions for the military spouse 20 20 20 rule are satisfied, a divorcing non-service-member spouse can potentially keep the following benefits until the remarry:

  • Continued Tricare military health coverage
  • Base and commissary privileges
  • Military ID card

Satisfying the Military Spouse 20 20 20 Rule Means You Can Request Other Benefits, As Well

A couple that has been married for as long as 20 years will also have satisfied other, lesser time conditions required for certain benefits to be retained by the former spouse.

This includes the 10 10 10 rule needed to satisfy requirements for the U.S. Defense Finance Accounting Service (DFAS) to provide a direct monthly payment of retirement benefits awarded as part of the divorce decree.

The former spouse may also retain possible access to the following military divorce benefits:

  • Military retirement benefits
  • Thrift Savings Plan (TSP)
  • GI Bill benefits
  • Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP)

20 20 15 Rule for Military Spouse Post-Divorce

The 20 20 15 rule for military divorce applies in situations where:

  • A couple has been married for at least 20 years 
  • The military service member served for at least 20 years 
  • The couple had at least 15 years of overlap between the marriage and service, but less than 20

When these conditions are satisfied, the divorcing non-military spouse can retain their Tricare plan for exactly one year. 

Note that this means full Tricare medical insurance coverage at the typical military service-member premium, not the Tricare Continued Health Care Benefit Program (CHCBP) that has higher rates and a 36-month transitional window. Additionally, a former spouse of a military service member can retain CHCBP coverage for so long as they are remarried and receiving either a portion of military retirement benefits or Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) benefits.

The Military Spouse 20 20 20 Rule Does Not Automatically Provide You with Benefits and Privileges, So Speak With an Experienced Divorce Attorney

It is important to recognize that the 20 20 20 rule and similar rules only make it possible for benefits and privileges to be extended once the marriage is dissolved. The only guaranteed contributions a service member must make to a former spouse are court-ordered child support and/or spousal support. Even then, the exact size and details of the contributions will vary according to the divorce decree.

New Mexico law recognizes the rights of spouses of service members, and it considers military retirement divisible property. Combined with the benefits allowed under the 20 20 20 military spouse rule, divorcing military couples have a lot to determine when it comes to the final terms of the divorce decree.

The military divorce attorneys at New Mexico Financial & Family want to represent you during this time and help you understand the legal options available to you. We proudly represent military service members, military spouses, and military families in court and in mediation. Let us provide you with the guidance, understanding, and tireless legal service you need to seek the ideal scenario you wish to see at the end of your divorce.

Call us today at (505) 503-1637 or contact us online to schedule a no-obligation, no-risk case review.

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