All divorces can be complicated, but military divorces tend to have additional considerations that need to be accounted for when compared to divorces in the civilian sector. The entitlements allotted to the former spouse of a military member can differ from normal divorce settlements. A big aspect to consider if you’re going through a military divorce, particularly if you are the non-military member in the marriage, is whether or not you are able to keep your Tricare benefits once the divorce is final. It’s one of the most common questions we receive in military divorce situations.
Tricare is the Department of Defense’s healthcare program designed specifically for active members of the military, Veterans, and their families. Tricare covers medical care, dental care, and medication/prescriptions. Though a strong program that benefits our armed forces, Tricare, like other medical insurance, only covers former spouses of service members in limited circumstances.
When determining Tricare eligibility after a divorce, there is a standard 20-year rule:
- The marriage must have lasted 20 years
- The servicemember must have served in the military for at least 20 years
- The military service and marriage must have overlapped for at least 20 years
In addition, if a nonmilitary spouse remarries at any point, he or she is no longer eligible for Tricare coverage, even if the subsequent marriage ends. It is important to note that nonmilitary spouses can remain on Tricare for a designated period of time after a divorce to allow them time to secure alternative health insurance.
If you do meet the criteria of Tricare eligibility after the divorce, you will receive your own account and be listed individually in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS). Your coverage will no longer be associated with that of your former spouse.
An important factor to note is that benefits for military children can continue to be covered by Tricare benefits for the same amount of time they would be eligible if the marriage had not ended. Essentially, a military divorce does not affect the coverage given to children, regardless of custody settlements or disputes. A key exception in this case, however, is if the children were not biological children of the service member and an official adoption did not occur. In this scenario, children would not be eligible to continue Tricare coverage.
Navigating a military divorce can be overwhelming, and it’s easy to miss a lot of the “fine print” when it comes to imperative topics like Tricare coverage. If you find yourself in this situation, consulting with an experienced legal professional with specific experience working with military families can prove to be immensely beneficial.