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Understanding the 20/20/20 Rule in a military divorce

If you are involved in a divorce with a member of the United States military, you may be entitled to rights that differ from traditional civilian divorces with regards to property settlement, alimony and benefits during your divorce.

In order to obtain complete military privileges and benefits from a soon-to-be ex-spouse who was a service member, the 20/20/20 rule is applied to determine your level of benefits. You may be entitled to medical, commissary, Welfare and Recreation program benefits and exchange and theater privileges under the Morale if you qualify. To qualify, you must meet the following criteria:

  • The marriage to the military member must have lasted at least 20 years at the time of the annulment, dissolution or divorce.
  • Although the military member does not have to be retired from active duty, he or she must have performed a minimum of 20 years of credible service to be eligible for retirement pay
  • The non-military member spouse must have been married to the service member for at least 20 years during the military member's retirement-credible service

If you do not meet the minimum criteria, you may still be entitled to one year of transitional military benefits to help you acclimate to your new life following a divorce. To qualify for these benefits, your military member ex-spouse must meet the following:

  • 20 years of credible service.
  • A marriage of at least 20 years.
  • An overlap between the two of at least 15 years.

These laws are not always easy to decipher and follow, so if you are going through a military divorce it may be a good idea to get more information to see if you qualify.

Source:, "Rights and Benefits of Divorced Spouses in the Military", Accessed June 16, 2015

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