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.

About the Author

Kate Horrell
Kate Horrell is a military financial coach, mom of four teens, and Navy spouse. She has a background in taxes and mortgage banking, and a trove of experience helping other military families with their money. Follow her on twitter @realKateHorrell.

67 Comments on "From The Mailbag: Ex-Spouse Benefits"

  1. My Grandson will be coming out of the Marines after serving four years in December. What benefits are available to him as far as going to college. He has always wanted to go into the medical field, maybe physical threapy.

  2. Question: I'm currently active duty AF and been in for 20+ yrs. I'm still single but wondered if I was to get remarried could my retirement be included if I went through a divorce? And would it be different if I married while I'm still on active duty compared to being retired? I don't see how the court can touch my retirement but if thats my livable income I could see them trying to get their hands on it. Thoughts??

  3. RICHARD J MOLTER | September 19, 2012 at 10:30 am |


  4. My question is about benefits for my children. My x-husband is retired USMC & carries TriCare medical & dental benefits for our children (twins, age 10). Their primary care provider is on a nearby base. Since the divorce, he has put a "passcode" on the benefits (which code he hasn't given me) and without this passcode, TriCare cannot give me any information/set up referrals, etc. and without an ID card (I obviously don't have one & he took our children's), I cannot get on base or have them seen. Our daughter is sick today and she needs to see a doctor and their father won't call me back. I guess my only option is to take them off-base and pay for it myself. This is so frustrating since they do have benefits. Any advice?

  5. Herlinda Trinidad | March 20, 2013 at 5:46 pm |

    My former spouse was in the USMC. He joined in 1965, & we married 8/6/1967. Our divorce was final 11/17/1990. He retired on or about 09/1985.
    I receive 50% of his retirement pay. Today I find myself questioning if I qualify for commissary, PX or medical privileges.
    Can you give me some direction? Do I not meet the 20/20/20?
    Thank you,

  6. Are there recent changes regarding qualifications of ex-spouses for the retirement benefits from the retired military man?

  7. I am an ex-spouse of a service member. I have been receiving 50 per cent of his military retirement since our divorce in 2005. My divorce decree states nothing of how long I would receive it. My question is: will I continue receiving the retirement if I remarry?

  8. I was married to a navy person we were together 20 years he served at least 17 of those yrs in the military. We divorced he had about 2 years before he could retire. He said before I get any of his retirement he would get out of the service. I know he was out for a while after the divorce. I have no idea if he went back in and finished his 20 yrs or not. Was he eligible for anything after serving in the military for 17 years? He was ordered to pay child support at the time but never did our four kids are adults now. I did remarry myself later on but am now divorced. Am I eligible for anything after being married to him the whole time he was in the service?

  9. emmaburch87 | August 5, 2013 at 9:37 am |

    I fell under the 20-20-20 rule when I got divorced in 2007. My question is: At what age could I remarry and not lose my portion of the ex retirement?

  10. Married to a CPO E7 for 21 years, filed for divorce in our state, he was stationed in NC and stayed there, for 8 yr we went back and forth on jurisdiction finally 7 years later I gave up and he got the divorce but I just found the final decree and it says he gave up rights to Equitable distribution to my state, I was given 600.00 a month allomony and 50% of his military pay, it has been 13 yrs and I just read this in our decree, am I entitled to anything now and how do I find out more? Im 66 yrs old

  11. My x was getting military retirement. Now, however, he gets VA benefits due to his PTSD and the military retirement has gone away. Therefore, I am not getting any child support. I have heard that getting child support from VA benefits is next to impossible. Is this right?

  12. I am divorced from an AF serviceman and when he retires I will be able to collect half of his retirement pay. My question is if he should pass away after he retires will I continue to collect half of his retirement pay?

  13. My husband is retired navy after 20 years. He was married to his first wife for 12 years while he served. After he retired he divorced her so she is receiving 1/3 of his retirement. She remarried (at 52) a few years ago but got divorced a year after. Since she remarried is she still entitled to a portion of my husband's retirement??

  14. My husband and i been married 13 yrs. and he is retiring 4 yrs from now. Him and i is going through divorce right now, we do have 2 childrens together. My question is am i entitle to get some of his retirement even if i remarried in the future? And am i entitle to keep my ID card? Thank you


  15. When I met my ex he was already in the Navy…We were married for 23yrs..He retired after serving 26yrs..Yes we were still married when he retired…He's remarried…I haven't remarried…I heard I would have to renew my military ID on my own now, sending some kind of form out requesting to renew my military ID…Is there a form I can fill out online? Also, what will I lose if I remarry? Thank you..(K.D.)

  16. I was married to a retired MSGT with 20+ years of service. We were not married when he was active duty. Shortly after we married, he was dx with cancer and passed away. I continued to receive medical benefits (for a fee). After 5 years I remarried and lost that benefit. I am now divorced and wondered if I was eligible to recevie that benefit back?

  17. Judy Altieri | March 25, 2014 at 11:40 am |

    I was married to a AF man for 34 years. When we divorced (2003) I was getting benefits through 2009. All of a sudden they said I was not eligible any longer and the females name on records was not mine. At the time he was living with said girl friend( never married her) and is not living with her since 2011. when I inquired about coverage being cancelled, they told me I never had coverage even though I had Tri-Care paperwork in front of me. My ex spouse said he did not think I needed it any longer and his girlfriend at the time needed the extra insurance( mind you never married her). I do have 2 insurances at this point but the Tri-Care coverage meant I did not have to pay copy's which at a disability income of 28000. That mDe a big difference to me. Could you tell me why a live I girl friend would be allowed coverage ( not a girl friend while in military, and not even together as of this date. He has his own home but keeps a PO box for personal reasons. Could you help me with some of these question. he also told me he had the option of whether he wanted me to have coverage or not.

  18. Geniese Rymer | April 1, 2014 at 11:35 am |

    Hi my question is this. My husband was navy for 4 years and I am currently married to him Do I qualify for Va benefits!

  19. Hi Cindy,
    I have being married to my husband for 26years I fall under the 20-20-20 rule.we are talking about a divorce. He told me on my last day of chemo treatment that he was planning to leave.i wanted to know he gets 80/percent of disability benefits from Va and I entitle to that?

  20. I want to know if I am eligible for commissary privleges. My spouse was in the army for 15 yrs and took the early out; he is now deceased and I am on tri-care where my medicines are reimbursed to me.

  21. I am divorced to a air guard/ who was a full time tec at same Guard job. So divorce decree says I am entitled to 50% of retirement pay for the years we were married 15. 2 years afte the divorce he got a "medical retirement" . My question is am I entitled to any or the "medical retirement " pay since it is a retirement ? I can not get any information from him as to the level of retirement or "cause" . So second question would be how do I find any information out. Any time he finds out I am looking into anything( we have one child together) he gets ugly .

  22. I am an ex military wife. My exhusband had been in the military for over 20+ years. He went to a marine corp basic ,then was in army national guard, then went active army in 1987. So I believe he is getting credit for 22 or 23 years of service. I got married to him in 1988. We got divorced in 2008. He retired the end of 2007. He not only is retired but he is also a veteran and now is 100% disabled between PTSD, his knees, and back. What benefits do I qualify for. I let my military ID expire and was getting health care from my job but now we have to pay for insurance and I can't afford it. Do I have commisary/PX priveledges? Any dental plan? Military discounts? Thanks!

  23. I am the widow of a World War II Veteran (active duty–served in Italy) Purple Heart We were married 15 years. I remarried and divorced. Am I eligible for assisted living, etc. benefits or any other kind of benefits? thank you

  24. my husband is retired from the military and we have been married for 34 years. I was with him for 15 years of his military service. he get VA disability benefits and Social Security Benefits and his military retirement. He left me and is currently paying the bills. He states that he does not have to give me anything if we legally separate or get divorced. My personal income is very small and there is no way I can afford to pay the bills without his help. Will the military allow him to make me become homeless after 34 years of marriage

  25. I've been married to my husband for 23 yrs. We are unfortunately going through a divorce. We have 3 children one of which is married. He's drawn up the papers (I'm refusing to sign) and I'll be receiving 50% of pension. He has made it perfectly clear to me that I'm not entitled to any of his disability check. My question being: when it comes to child support for our children are they entitled to his pension/disability to be figured into that on top of his civilian job?

  26. Married for 20 years, he served 20 years in Air Force, now retired. I was married to him for the last 10 years of active duty service. We recently got divorced. I know I don't meet the 20/20/20 or the 20/20/15 rule. My question is, does my Tricare benefit end immediately upon the divorce, is their a grace period? And do I have the option to stay with Tricare if I pay a fee?

  27. Jean Merriman | August 11, 2014 at 5:04 pm |

    My niece has been married to a retired Navy man for 3 years. He is planning to get a divorce–will she still be eligible for medical, commissary & PX privelidges? Thank You

  28. question is…We have been married 17yrs of his 21yrs active duty. Should I consent to the Survivor Benefit Plan? Still not sure what this means.

  29. I have been married to my husband for 8 years, it will be 9 in March. He has been retired the entire time of our marriage. He has two previous spouses which the first wife get 1/2 of his retirement, the second gets none. What would i be entitled to if I file and successfully divorce?

  30. who do I seek immediate response on my ex=wife status of having military privileges to the exchanges and commissary and any other facilities.

  31. I was married to an x-military man. His total lenght of service is probably 20 years. We got divorced in 2010. I was married to him for 6 months shy of 20 years. It was an uncontested divorce on my part. I gave up the custody of our children who are now 16 and 19. Realizing now why I agreed to uncontested divorce was the fear of getting physically hurt. He had threatened me not to ''go there' when I mentioned prior to signing the divorce that I was thinking of getting a lawyer to represent me. I have not remarried ever since our divorce. He has full custody of the kids. What I want to know is, am I not entitled to any of his benefits since I have not remarried?

  32. my friend married a military man. he served for four year but now they are divorce. can she get any source of benefit from him

  33. Hello, my ex and I getting a divorce after 17 yrs of being married. He retires in 1 1/2 yrs. from the army as an E7. how much will I be entitled to far as his retirement?

  34. Sorry to hear that this has happened. However, I do believe you are entitled to 1/2 of his retirement pay, because you were married over 10 years. Please don't listen to "Barracks lawyers". Make an appointment or walk into the post legal office and call the post fiancé office to find out exactly. I am retired military female and I have seen so many good spouses get messed over. Please take my advice. God Bless you! :)
    P.S. If anything, talk to the older spouses on post. They will most definitely stir you in the right direction. Avoid the FSG…everything kinda leaks from there!

  35. My husband was Army for 18 yrs and got out for no particular reason. I was his military wife for 15 of those years. He divorced me six years after we left the military. He is "buying back" his military retirement thru working at the post office & should retire soon. I remarried 3 years later to a retired Marine. I do have a dependent military ID card from my 2nd husband. I am presently disabled and am solely on medicare. I am concerned about the benefits I would receive, if any, upon the death of either?

  36. My husband and I are going through a divorce, we were married for 14 years then divorce but still lived together in Colorado and common law state, remarried 9 years ago. I need to know if I am entitled to any of his VA compensation, he is 100% UI. He states that he would live in poverty if I got any of he money. He has and income of $6228.00 and has to give me 1053.00 he has a total of $3154 in monthly bills, leaving him $3074 a month. that is not poverty. I'm asking for 1200 to 1500 per month. I'm I

  37. Can anyone help me… I am the Fiancé' of a now retired (20yrs) Army member and his ex wife and him were only married 13 years of his military career. During his divorce proceedings in 2008, 4 years before his date of retirement, she re-married…. Is she still entitled to a portion of his retirement pay or can he have it amended to last only 13 years.? Appreciate any feedback. I have been doing this research and cannot get anyone to answer me and he has obtained an attorney that has not one clue…sad… so we are trying every avenue to get an answer! Thanks for the feedback…ANYONE!!! :)

  38. I am married to a retired Navel Officer we separated over ten years ago but never got divorced I found out recently that he has died am I entitled to his Navy pension

  39. Kathy Little | March 3, 2015 at 3:24 pm |

    My father in law was in the army and retired after over 20 years of service. My husband's mother was with my father-in-law during at least 20 years of active service. They were also married more than 20 years. Both my mother-in-law (she is no longer married and has not been for some time) and father-in-law got remarried (to other spouses) after he retired from the military. He has passed away (about two years ago). Is my mother-in-law eligible for anything at all (his second wife has also passed away). He told her that she was eligible for life insurance that he could not take her name off of (she hasn't heard anything about that since his death) I am wondering, however, based on the 20/20/20 rule would she be eligible for anything else.

  40. Hi. I was married to my husband for 21 years. He was in the army for the first 14 years of our marriage before he medical out. Now he gets 100% disability thru va. I had two strokes a year ago and am trying to find out if I qualify for any benefits through him.

  41. My husband was in the military for 20 years. He was married to his ex-wife for 17 years of his military career. They are now divorced. We've been married for 5 years. She declined any payment from his retirement. However, she is still listed as a beneficiary. He's under the impression that he cannot delete her as beneficiary and add me. Is that true? Now, she is saying that she wants 49% of his retirement. There is no court order in place at this time. Please advise – Heather.

  42. I fall under the 20/20/20 rule. We divorced after he retired. And I currently receive 50% of his retirement pension. And have been since our divorce 20 years ago. But there is no statement in our divorce degree that says anything at all about this arrangement. I simply applied to Dias and received it. Now I'm wondering if he has the right to take this away from me at any point, since our divorce papers don't address this financial arrangement. Can he do that? Have the payments stopped at any point? I'm concerned, because he's about to get remarried and talking about possibly stopping support to me.

  43. Do I have to wait until I am 55 to continue receiving my ex's in order to get married?

  44. pension

  45. d omalley | May 6, 2015 at 8:45 pm |

    i have a friend who served 20 years in the air guard he was killed before he he was able to retire, is his wife still able to retain her id card she never re married . are there any beeifits available to her

  46. Kate I am 73 years old. I am considering re marrying. I am a devorced wife that falls under the 20-20-20 rule. I receive medical & tri care for life. I also have an ID card that allows me Commisary, exchange privileges along with the medical.
    It seems that I read or heard that after 65 yrs old if I remarry I can keep my military ID for these privlages. Can you answer this?
    I never was awarded 50% of the retirement. Just the way the judge decided. At the time the McCarney versus McCartney issue was in the courts for divorce military men and their spouses. He won!!
    I am mainly interested in being able to keep my ID for shopping & medical. Or just even the Commisary/exchange.
    Thank you
    Beth V.

  47. My ex husband is receiving VA benefits. He was discharged with a diagnosis for Bipolar disorder and receives about $3000 tax free per month. He does not work. $700 of that is allocated for each of our children.He has been living out of state sending me $700 a month while withholding the other portion for himself. Both children have lived me for the past 4 and a half years.
    Our older one is now 18 so no more benefits. Our young ears one 14, is wanting to live with his dad now.
    My question is; is my ex able to demand I pay him child support at that point?

  48. I don't think the military is fair in some situations. I was married for 12 yrs with two children, my ex always secretly mentioned that some people act coo- coo to get VA money. Well that's what he is doing, so he's been going to the doctor saying he can't sleep and trying to act crazy. Long story short, I am supposed to get a half of retirement from DFAS but now that he is getting it through the VA. They said I cant. I don't think it's fair, if they owe half they owe half. I think it's pretty disgusting that he is doing that because there are a lot of veterans that have actually put their life on the line. Now I'm looking at him buying new cars and homes, while I get700 for both children monthly and I work from check to check.

  49. I live in a very small town of about 4,000 people and I know of 2 men locally doing the same thing. When it was time to go in for evaluation, no shaving or bathing for several days and wearing grubby military issue clothing; old field jacket, fatigue pants, etc. They got the idea from a friend in another state; all claiming PTSD from Viet Nam. One of these men was actually 'asked to leave" the Marine Corp for possession of marijuana while in country!! So, they sit back in their favorite pub and wait for the 1st of the month to roll around. It's an appalling situation when there are so many that truly deserve the benefits. Anyway, as far a military spouse benefits, we 'former spouses' often get the short end. I'm an ex of a 22 yr. military career receiving benefits but if I remarry, I lose it all. Yet, my ex is on his third marriage since our divorce and they were ALL entitled to the same benefits as me while they were married to him, yet I had to be married to him at least 20 yrs of his service to receive benefits! WHAT?! These women weren't there for all the hardships the military life can present and I don't feel they should reap the benefits. I think that's why two of the women married him to begin with. Soooo many taking advantage of cracked system!

  50. I recently got divorced. My wife was awarded 20% of my retirement from Active Regular Army after less than 10 yrs of marriage. If I leave the Regular Army join and reitire under a GS position or Active Guard Reserve (AGR) , would she still be enitiled to 20% of my retirement?

  51. In military-related family law, where does it state that if the Spouse was served before she reached the 20/20/20 rule does she receive benefits? I served my wife June 13, since then, she has not turned in her discovery paperwork, got caught with 2 hidden accounts and continues to defy the court by tap dancing to prolong the marriage until I reach 20 yrs active, which will be in 2 months. Does the clock stop when the paperwork is served?

  52. Hi Kate,

    I am officially divorced from a medically retired Marine. He has legally kidnapped my children and I by not allowing me to move back to where I am originally from despite the fact that the only reason I was here is due to him being stationed here. Please help me. He is diagnosed with Traumatic Brain Injury and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and has a gun. The man does not receive treatment and has lost his mind. Please help me.

  53. Hi, I've been married for 30 yrs. I'm getting a divorce and I need to know if I get any benifits. My husband serviced 27 years in the military and is currently retired and receiving retirement pay.

  54. Judith oliver | August 16, 2015 at 6:36 pm |

    I was married to my ex husband for 20 yrs he did 17 yes in the Army he got out on a medical i was awarded lifetime Alimony in the amount of 1,300 a month he has not paid me in 4 yrs I can't afford a lawyer I wanna know how I can go about getting my money please help me

  55. morie yearby | August 20, 2015 at 1:01 pm |

    I was married to a vet for 25 years, he later remarried his wife died, I am 60 years old, our marriage was the 1st for both of us, neither one of us are married now, he is receiving 100% disability benefits am I entitled to receive any benefits?

  56. Guest contributor | August 20, 2015 at 1:24 pm |

    Read USFSPA Killer's reply to your first posting of your question.

  57. I have been trying to divorce my wife since 03 Jun 13, she will not turn in her paperwork, she will not submit financial docs in a timely manner and she has not done her taxes in 3yrs. This has been continual during this whole court thing now, she is calling or emailing my command trying to get me kicked out or demoted at least 2X a month. Because of this, I have had a 15-6 investigation done on me, which by the way she keeps calling for the results, and several counselings. This is not my doing, she was the one caught cheating yet I am the one under the microscope. Is this harassment, if it is, what is the reg and how do I make it stop?

  58. My son is about to go into the Navy. He is divorced and has a baby. I know the baby will qualify for benefits, but will the ex-wife be entitled to anything? (Such as medical services, commissary, etc.)

  59. Hello – I was married for 26 years to my exhusband. We are now divorced and I have been told that I should be receiving monthly payments from him. He would not show his pay stubs in court and finally the judge just granted my divorce. Am I entitled to any funds. We also have a son who is 25 now, but has not received anything from his dad as well


  60. Maria Elena Blanka | September 9, 2015 at 4:44 pm |

    I've been married for over 30yrs. been receiving 50% of his retirement. My question is…He is living overseas and remarried. He has cancer and says he doesn't have long to live. On my divorce decree it states I will receive Survivor Benefits when he passes. He has paid for SBP all these yrs. He wants his current wife to receive the SBP. Who do I notify upon his death
    Thank you for your time.

  61. I was married to a 100% Medically disabled vet for over 10 years. He was granted these benefits during our marriage. I became disabled during the marriage. We divorced due to domestic violence on his part. Am I entitled to any benefits at all? I am turning 62 in January 2016. The divorce was final July 2014. Thank you for your response

  62. Interesting to see so many people trying their hearts out to get money from veterans, trying to see just how much money they can take and how much they can get away with. VA Disability cannot be taxed, garnished or otherwise affected in any way, shape or form from a Veteran, Federal Law Prohibits it.

  63. My daughter and son-in-law are divorcing. They have been married 11 years; he was medically retired after 6 years with combat injuries/issues. They have their medical ID cards. He left her and is not paying any support while awaiting the divorce. She had to move out of her house and in with us (her parents). Since he is medically retired with 90% disability, will my daughter be able to keep her medical card and ID card after the divorce? I am aware of the 20-20-20 rule, but hopeful that there are exceptions in cases like his where he is medically retired and drawing a pension after 6 years' service.

  64. My husband is getting SSDI for PTSD at 100%. He is also getting SSI, and so altogether approximately $4300 per month. He is 45 years old, and I am 49, but recently told me he wants a divorce. I have been working the entire time, he got his back pay in 2011 and has been receiving money every month.
    We have only been married 9 years.

    He was in the Army for 3 and then went into the National Guard to Iraq for 1. I had taken out three various savings accounts and my retirement to the tune of $100,000 to assist him in court when he embezzled money as a Parole Officer(he went to tent city for 10 days and is now a convicted felon) from the state of AZ before he started receiving his SSDI money.
    Before I digress any more, I am wondering if there is any way to get any money back from giving up my retirement and my savings that I took out for "us"?

    Yes, I know a sucker is born every minute, and I live and breathe those words every day, now.

    PS I have never asked for a card for the commissary, medical benefits, etc. I suppose I'm not entitled to anything like that? If there is any other info you need, let me know, and I will fill in the blanks…


  65. Yvette Knight | January 11, 2016 at 9:19 am |

    Am I eligible for my ex husband VA loan. I'm 20/20/20.

  66. sharon williams | January 24, 2016 at 1:52 pm |

    I was married to a military guy he only did four years in military he is a alcohol now needs help will he get some money if he gets help we were married for sixteen years been divorced now over twenty years neither one of us never remarried am do I receive any thing my name is Sharon williams

  67. right after we got married my husband went crazy he ended up getting money from the va every month when we were married his ex wife was claiming for a monthly check that should of been mine right what do i do

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