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What is the Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act?

The Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act (USFSPA) is a federal law which provides specific benefits to former spouses of military service members. The benefits typically affect retirement pay and medical care, as well as the use of commissaries and exchanges.

Eligibility for Military Benefits

If you are a non-military spouse of an active service member, your entitlement to military benefits depends on the length of time you were married, the length of time your spouse served, and the number of years your marriage overlapped with your military spouse’s service. In order to recover full military benefit and privileges in the event of a divorce, you must meet the “20/20/20 Rule.”

The following are the qualifications of the 20/20/20 Rule:

  • The non-military spouse was married to the military member for at least 20 years at the time of divorce
  • The military service member has performed at least 20 years of service
  • The non-military spouse was married to the member during at least 20 years of the member’s retirement-creditable service

How Divorce Effects Military Benefits

Unless you meet the 20/20/20 rule requirements, you will not be eligible to continue using commissaries and exchanges upon the finalization of your divorce. But until your divorce is final, you may keep your identification card and still receive your health care benefits and use the commissary and exchange.

Additional issues concerning military benefits include:

  • Health care benefits. Once your divorce is finalized, you will not be able to use any military health benefits. However, you can receive health care coverage through the Department of Defense Continued Health Care Benefit Program for 36 months.
  • Housing. Military family housing can only be occupied by service members who live with their family members. But if a service member stops residing there or if no family members are living there, the family housing unit must be vacated within 30 days.
  • Alimony and child support. A civilian court often determines child support in a military divorce, while alimony can also be ordered by the court and paid through wage garnishment. However, each military branch has policies which require service members to support family members upon separation in the absence of a court order or divorce agreement.

If you are interested in filing a military divorce in Annapolis, MD, schedule a free consultation with the Law Office of Nicholas T. Exarhakis today.


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