This is one of those areas of law where I get questions all the time, and I deal with a lot of heartache when it comes to this question. In order for you to continue on TRICARE, which is the type of insurance that you receive when you’re in the military, you have to have what’s called the 20-20 spouse. What it basically means is that you have to be married to the military member for 20 years of credible service. Being in the reserve doesn’t equal exact years of active duty. That can mess up your eligibility for TRICARE also.
I had a case recently where the wife was married for 19 years and 9 months and the husband retired from the military. This is before they got a divorce. If he had just waited for three more months before he retired, she would have been a 20-20 spouse and would’ve gotten TRICARE for life. It’s a huge benefit for both the military spouse and the military member because, a lot of times, as a military member, you might have to support your spouse, you might have to pay alimony or spousal support. If you are able to give them TRICARE, it doesn’t actually cost you anything. It comes straight from the government, so you’re not paying anything for their TRICARE after your divorce. But that is a benefit they would have to pay.
If you are looking to get divorced and your spouse is close to being 20 years, I would always suggest that you wait. You wait to retire until there has been an overlap. There is no way to go back after you have retired, so there’s no way for you to say, “Oh, I want to go back and get a couple more months.” Make sure that you are really considering that, if you are the spouse or the military member, before you file for divorce. Like I said, it’s a really great benefit. TRICARE is one of the best types of insurance, and the co-pays are low and it’s a really helpful thing for both sides of the coin when it comes to the military member and the spouse.
Ginger L. Dugan, a family lawyer at All Family Law Group in Tampa, Florida, has 10 years of experience in family law and handling complex cases.