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How can the length of one’s marriage affect military divorce?

On Behalf of | Feb 21, 2024 | Military Divorce |

A civilian who is married to an individual serving in the military must grapple with a lot of things that most civilian spouses don’t have to. Yet, for those who have been in long-term marriages to servicemembers, there are also some benefits they can take advantage of when they divorce.

There are two specific rules that civilian spouses should know when they’re going through a military divorce – 20/20/20 and 20/20/15. These two rules directly impact what a civilian spouse is entitled to in the divorce.

20/20/20 rule

The 20/20/20 rule applies to former spouses of military members and outlines eligibility for continued military benefits after a divorce. To qualify under this rule, there must be at least 20 years of military service that counts toward retirement, at least 20 years of marriage and those must overlap by at least 20 years. The former spouse can retain full military benefits when these conditions are met. This includes medical benefits, commissary and exchange privileges and potentially a portion of the military retirement pay if awarded as part of the divorce settlement.

20/20/15 rule

The 20/20/15 rule is similar to the 20/20/20 rule but with slightly different requirements and benefits. Under this rule, the marriage must have lasted at least 20 years, the military member must have at least 20 years of creditable service but the overlap between the marriage and the service must be only 15 years. Former spouses who qualify under this rule are entitled to one year of transitional military medical benefits but don’t retain commissary or exchange privileges.

Retirement benefits

Those two rules aren’t dependent upon Georgia law; however, there’s another matter that civilian spouses must consider. If the servicemember is on track to retire with benefits, the civilian spouse may be entitled to a percentage of the retirement. This must be included in a court order.

Understanding how military divorce is distinct from purely civilian divorce is critical for anyone in this position. Having a legal advisor to assist with determining how to handle these matters effectively can take some stress out of the divorce process.