If you’re divorcing a spouse who is an active or retired member of the military, you likely have a number of questions about what spousal military benefits you can retain and which you’ll lose. For many people, their top priority is their TRICARE health care benefits.
Once the divorce is final, former non-military spouses can retain their TRICARE health care coverage without concern about their eligibility expiring under the 20/20/20 rule. This applies to those married to a service member for a minimum of 20 years as long as the military spouse had at least 20 years of service that occurred consecutively with the marriage.
You may still qualify to continue your TRICARE coverage for a year after the divorce is final as long as you meet the 20/20/15 rule. That’s the same as the 20/20/20 rule, except that your marriage and the service must have overlapped by at least 15 but less than 20 years.
Under both of these rules, you need to update your information in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS) so that the coverage is in your name. You can continue the coverage as indicated above or until you either enroll in another type of health insurance plan or remarry.
What if you don’t qualify for continued coverage under those rules?
Many younger people divorcing military spouses don’t qualify for continuing TRICARE coverage under either the 20/20/20 or 20/20/15 rule. If you don’t have access to an employer-sponsored plan, you can get coverage through Healthcare.gov.
To give people some breathing room until they can get new coverage in place, TRICARE offers temporary coverage through the Continued Health Care Benefit Program (CHCBP). You can get up to 36 months of coverage.
What about the kids?
Any biological or adopted children you and your spouse share can remain on their TRICARE plan as long as they’re under 21 (23 if they’re in college) or another qualifying event occurs. It’s crucial for you and your spouse to determine as part of your child support agreement who will provide and pay for the kids’ health insurance.
You have a lot of decisions to make as you go through a divorce. One thing you don’t want is to end up uninsured because you didn’t take the necessary steps to get or remain insured. Having experienced legal guidance can help you with these issues unique to military spouses.