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What benefits can former military spouses receive?

While military divorce proceedings, like their civilian counterparts, are mostly subjected to state laws, there may be a few unique regulations applicable in military cases. For example, the Uniformed Services Former Spouses' Protection Act governs the rights and benefits you might receive after divorcing a military service member.

If a former spouse of defense personnel remains unmarried, he or she may be eligible for commissary admission, medical treatment, and other privileges under the USFSPA. Such privileges, however, are dependent on various factors. These factors may include that the spouse was married at least 20 years before the divorce, the military person has been in service for a minimum of 20 years, and that the estranged spouse was married during 20 years or more of the member's retirement-credible service.

However, after a military divorce, a spouse may be eligible for such benefits even if the member was in active duty for 20 years and the marriage lasted a minimum of twenty years, as long as the marriage duration overlapped with service by 15 or more years. Yet, it is important to note that if you fall into this category, then you will only be eligible for military benefits for one year, known as a transition period.

There are many other legal issues you must consider when filing for military divorce. For example, a service member cannot evict you from installation housing. Only the installation commander can do this. So, once the divorce is finalized, you may have 30 days or so to vacate the premises. Also, alimony and child support issues may be handled differently during a military divorce, as temporary support may be awarded to an ex-spouse until an agreement or court order specifies otherwise.

These issues are extremely complicated, and, therefore, the above information should not be construed as legal advice. Instead, it should give you some food for thought about whether or not divorce is in your best interest and if you are getting everything to which you are entitled.

Source:, "Rights and Benefits of Divorced Spouses in the Military," accessed on Aug. 8, 2014

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