Divorce is always an emotional and complex process, but it can be even more daunting for civilian spouses of someone in military service. They might have been benefitting from housing, healthcare, and a pension related to their husband or wife’s service, so starting out on their own is a daunting task. When you are going through a military divorce, it’s worth researching which assets or benefits you might be able to keep and which ones you will have to give up.

In general, you will have many rights if you have been married for a long time, especially once the marriage is older than 20 years. However, you might need to find a new place to live, and you’ll have to work out child support as well as custody with your former spouse. If you live abroad, there might be factors that complicate the process. Let’s have a closer look at how divorce affects your military benefits.

What Rights Do Civilian Spouses Have in a Military Divorce? 

When you married your military spouse, you gained access to many benefits related to their service. The exact nature and extent of these depends on the type of service they are performing, but most people will have healthcare, housing, and a pension. Now that you are contemplating divorce, you might be worried about which ones you can retain and which ones you’ll have to give up.

The answer is that every situation is different, and the length of service and length of the marriage will significantly affect the outcome. If in doubt, you should request a consultation with a lawyer and figure out where you stand.

The 20/20/20 Rule

Some civilian spouses are able to keep the majority of their benefits, such as medical care, commissary, exchange, and theater privileges. This is true as long as they don’t remarry, which will cause them to lose access to all these services. Although this Morale, Welfare, and Recreation program may sound very generous, it only applies to specific situations. You can benefit from it if you meet the criteria of the 20/20/20 rule.

This stipulates that you must have been married to the service member for at least 20 years, that they must have been in the military for at least 20 years, and that you must have been married to them during this period of service. There is no requirement that the service member be currently retired, and this rule applies whether they are still working or not.

The 20/20/15 Rule 

If you weren’t married to your military spouse for the full 20 years of their service, you may still gain access to some benefits. Specifically, you can get TRICARE medical coverage if the service member completed 20 years of service, you were married to them for 20 years, and at least 15 of those years are overlapping. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to claim many of the other benefits offered to people who meet the 20/20/20 criteria.

Housing and Moving Costs 

For as long as the military divorce is ongoing, you should be able to keep your housing. However, you should start making alternative arrangements once the divorce is close to being final. Installation family housing is only for service members and their spouses, so you will need to vacate the home within 30 days of the move-out date of your service member spouse.

A highly qualified attorney can help you figure out what to do in this situation. They will determine when exactly you may be asked to leave and help you find a new arrangement. If you have a problem or are unable to find housing on your own, your lawyer can refer you to organizations that can assist you as you make this transition.

Spousal and Child Support 

Every military service member is required to support their underage children and former spouse. There are policies to protect your rights, and you should find out which ones apply to the type of service your spouse was in. This is true even if there isn’t an agreement or court order in place yet. A great divorce lawyer will be able to help you research this, so you don’t lose out on valuable benefits.

It’s important to consider that this type of support is temporary, and you will need a court order for a more permanent support agreement. This is where the service of your attorney proves invaluable, as they help you navigate the ins and outs of alimony and child support laws.

Child Custody 

Custody can be challenging for any family to work out, but it’s even worse for people in the military, who often move around the country or even the world. You will have to figure out how to balance your children’s need for stability with the importance of seeing their service member parent on a regular basis.

To navigate these challenges and help you find the best solution for the children involved, you should always employ the services of an experienced attorney. Check that they have worked with similar families before and are aware of the unique challenges that being in the military brings.

Complicating Factors 

Divorcing a military service member can be very complex, or it can be relatively straightforward. It all depends on your unique situation and whether there are any complicating factors. For example, if there are assets that both parties want, you might have to fight for your rights. Similarly, having young children will make finding a viable arrangement more challenging.

If you and your spouse are considering filing for divorce from abroad, you should make sure that a U.S. court will recognize this. It’s always best to file directly in the US, since this might make the situation easier later on. You can choose either your spouse’s state, the state where they are stationed, or the state where they claim their legal residency.

Get Help from a Divorce Attorney 

It can be extremely hard to figure out where you stand and what benefits you might be able to retain. For this reason, you should contact a divorce attorney familiar with military cases as soon as possible. Remember that your former spouse is likely to hire one as well, so you will be at a disadvantage if you don’t. Your lawyer will speak to you about the situation and let you know what benefits you can expect to keep.

What’s more, they will help you navigate the tricky divorce laws surrounding the division of property, alimony, child support, and child custody. That way, you know that you are getting the best outcome possible for your entire family.

Get the Help You Need

Getting divorced from a member of the military is not easy, especially as you have been relying on their benefits for healthcare, housing, and your pension. You might not have made provisions for yourself, and you are now worried about losing your access to these services. Fortunately, you are protected if you have been married long enough and the military spouse has been serving for many years.

As a long-term partner, you have the right to retain many of your benefits, as long as you don’t remarry. The best way to find out more is to contact a highly qualified lawyer, who will be able to show you exactly what rules and regulations apply to you. Contact us now at Cannon & Associates in Edmond, OK to book your first appointment with one of our family law attorneys specializing in military divorce.