Paycheck Chronicles

From The Mailbag: Ex-Spouse Benefits

I get a lot of email here with a variety of questions.  We're working on a separate, "Ask Kate," page, but in the meantime I thought I'd better put them in with the regular posts.  I've always thought that if one person is asking a question, there are probably 10 more people thinking the same question.

I've edited the original question to eliminate some personally identifying information and to make it more clear.

Hi Kate!  I need some questions answered if you could.  I am divorced from a sailor and I haven't been active on base for many years. nI have a little girl by him whom is now 22 years old.  I was wondering if I still have the same benefits that I did even though I'm divorced many years as a military spouse? can you E-Mail me and give me some pointers...  Cindy
I know this one is going to get a lot of people riled up.  There are more specific instructions for specific situations, but I'm pretty sure my answer fits her details:
Dear Cindy,

Thank you for writing to The Paycheck Chronicles.  I wish I had more information for you.  I'm not sure that I exactly understand your situation.  You are divorced from a military member, and you want to know if there are benefits available for you?

The answer depends on a variety of factors, and also the type of benefits about which you are asking.  First, there is the length of your marriage, the length of your ex-husband's military service, and the amount of time that the two overlapped.  The rule for most benefits is 20-20-20, meaning that you must have been married at least 20 years, your ex-husband must have served at least 20 years, and that you must have been married for at least 20 years of his active duty service.  This is generally true for any benefit provided by the US government.

There are a few thing that aren't really benefits but that can be designated in a divorce decree.  These include the division of retired pay and the payment of SBP (Survivor Benefit Program) premiums.  Again, most courts look at the length of marriage in determining whether you might be awarded those.  You will need to look at the divorce decree to see if you asked for and received either of those benefits.

Of course, your daughter was eligible for Tricare medical coverage and base facility privileges since the time of your divorce, and may still be eligible if she is a full-time student.

Hope that answers your questions,


As many of you know, I've simplified this a bit because I'm pretty sure that Cindy doesn't meet any of the other guidelines.  If you have other questions on a similar topic, please let me know or check out Ask June's numerous pieces talking about ex-spousal benefits. Show Full Article

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