Post-Divorce Military Benefits: FAQ

Jacksonville Divorce Attorneys Address Common Concerns

Are civilian spouses entitled to any military benefits, like exchange, commissary, and health care benefits, after a divorce? Can the civilian spouse collect a portion of their soon-to-be ex-spouse’s military retirement pay? These questions can be answered by the Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act, or USFSPA. To help our clients better understand military spouse benefits, our attorneys at Owenby Law, P.A. have explained the answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about this topic.

What are My Rights and Options?

Is the civilian spouse permitted access to any part of their spouse’s military retired pay in the state of Florida?

Yes, but this is not automatically allowed by the USFPA. It instead defers to the state law of wherever the military divorce has been filed. Military retired disposable pay is considered a marital asset under state law and is therefore subject to division during a divorce. In Florida, the civilian spouse is entitled to an equitable, but not necessarily equal, share of whatever portion of the service member’s military retirement was earned while they were married.

When can a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) be completed?

A Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) can be completed at any time for the military. However, the amount the civilian spouse is designated to receive is only determined at retirement.

Can military retired pay be subject to garnishments?

Yes, retired pay can be garnished to meet court-ordered payments like child support or alimony.

If the civilian spouse remarries, what happens to the retirement pay?

While remarriage may affect the survivorship rights under the SBP, it likely will not affect the civilian ex-spouse’s right to a share of the retired pay.

Will a former civilian spouse be able to collect payment directly from the military for retired pay?

Yes, on the following conditions: 1) the former spouse must have been married to the military member for at least ten years during the time the member completed ten years of creditable service.

Will a former civilian spouse be able to continue receiving exchange, commissary, and health care benefits post-divorce?

The answer to this question depends on the length of the marriage, the length of the member’s length of service, and the amount of time both periods were concurrent. In order to be eligible to continue receiving benefits, a 20/20/20 ex-spouse must provide proof that the military spouse provided at least 20 creditable years of service, was married to their spouse for at least 20 years, and that the marriage was concurrent with the service. If the former spouse meets these requirements, he or she is permitted full access to benefits, including TRICARE and outpatient and inpatient care at military treatment facilities.

20/20/15 former spouses must provide proof of 20 years of service, 20 years of marriage, and proof of 15 to 19 years of concurrence to be eligible for one year of benefits after a divorce. After a year, they will have the option to buy a DOD-negotiated conversion health policy.

Ex-spouses not meeting these criteria will lose their commissary and exchange privileges as soon as the divorce is finalized.

Can we agree to have benefits continue if we do not qualify for 20/20/20 or 20/20/15?

Unfortunately, if you do not qualify, you will not be able to receive any benefits.

Will retirement pay continue past the service member’s death?

Unless there is a specific provision in the QDRO called the survivor benefit plan (SBP), the award for the civilian former spouse will not continue after the death of the service member. SBP is a pension for retired service members which provides income to an elected beneficiary at the retiree’s death. SBP beneficiary status must be elected by the service member or awarded to the civilian spouse at the time of the divorce (please note that "former spouse coverage" must be elected within one year of the divorce date).

Also note that a divorce will terminate any previous beneficiary designations in favor of the "spouse." Unless the service member voluntarily designates "former spouse" or the court orders the designation, the SBP beneficiary will not be the civilian spouse.

If the former civilian spouse remarries, what will happen to their health benefits?

If they remarry, the former civilian spouse will lose their coverage. Access to full coverage also requires that they do not enroll in a health insurance plan through their employer.

Do You Have Further Benefits Questions? Contact Owenby Law, P.A. for the Answers

If you have more questions about former military spouse benefits or need more information on one of the above topics, do not hesitate to contact our Jacksonville divorce lawyers at (904) 770-3141. We are available to help you better understand this specific and unique area of the law.