From The Mailbag: Ex-Spouse Benefits

September 16, 2012 | Kate Horrell

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.


  1. M. Harris says:

    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. MSgt Guest says:

    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??

    • KateKashman says:

      MSgt Guest, I don't even want to guess what the courts might decide in the future. It seems like it would be unlikely that they could award retirement to a spouse who wasn't even married to you until after you retired, but who knows. I'd do some careful documentation and possible do a pre-nuptial agreement if you are worried.

      Good luck to you!

      • MSgt Guest says:

        Yes, this worries me! I will have a pre-nup if I decide to go down that road again. Plus, I own my house free and clear…who knows how that would play out. If I had the house included in the pre-nup, then sold it to by a new one…would it void the pre-nup and leave a large loop hole for the lawyers?

        • guest says:

          If you sold the house, then used that money to buy a new one, while you are married…then that house is a joint marital asset and divisible in a divorce. The real question may be, why consider marriage if you are already considering the divorce? If you are getting married anytime soon sit down with your significant other, a lawyer and a financial planner.

          • MSgt Guest says:

            I consider it because I was married once! Guess what…it ended in divorce. She decided to mess around and got pregnant while I was deployed. Luckily, we didn’t have any kids or commingled debt. She did try to get half the house and used my pension as leverage. I had a lot less assets back then, now I have assets and I’ve worked hard for them and I’ll be damned if I lose it. Continued

          • MSgt Guest says:

            I can understand if you get married young and raise a family, then everything should be equal…but I think there should be something that says “everything up to this point is yours” if a divorce happens…but if your assets grow, then everything after that is dividable. I will never go into a marriage half-a$$ed but with divorce rates so high you need to try and protect yourself…even if you don’t think you have anything to lose. I’ve seen so many people want to leave a marriage and then try to take the other person to the cleaners. If I was leaving someone I wouldn’t want anything thing from them unless I earned it. My ex-wife made twice as much as what I made and I never tried to go after a dime. She worked and earned her benefits and I earned mine. -Continued-

          • MSgt Guest says:

            I do think it’s different when a spouse gives up a career to follow a service member or stays home to care for the kids. I think in this situation things should be more equal.

          • taylor bunn says:

            even as a civilian spouse i gave up my career to be with my wife who had an affair while at fort lost in the woods. after giving up my career the best job there was at the DFAC washing dishes at 4 in the mornin. i felt like i ws screwin myself everyday. but in th ename of love and SACRIFICE



    • KateKashman says:

      Mr. Molter, thanks for looking out for your friend. If your friend was married to the service member for 20 years, the service member was in the service for 20 years, and there were 20 years overlapping (where they were married and the service member was on active duty,) then she should be eligible for the same medical benefits as she would have retained if they had remained married. Now that the service member is deceased, it would require a great amount of effort to gather their marriage and divorce records, as well as his service records, to establish her eligibility. Not impossible, just challenging.

      Regarding the Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP), the divorce decree would have had to specify that the service member keep her on his SBP, to the extent he was able under the rules of SBP. If there was no such order in the divorce decree, and the service member did not pay SBP premiums, she would not be eligible for an SBP annuity.

      Hope that helps!

  4. Kathleen says:

    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?

    • KateKashman says:

      Kathleen, I think you are going to need to get a lawyer, and quickly. As their custodial parent, their ID cards should be with you, and for exactly this reason. I am so sorry that you are having to deal with this. I hope your daughter feels better soon and you and your ex-husband can come to some sort of arrangement.

  5. Herlinda Trinidad says:

    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. F. Tibbs says:

    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?

    • KateKashman says:

      Mrs. Tibbs, This is a question for a lawyer. However, I *think* that if it has been awarded as part of a divorce decree, it remains marital property. If your divorce decree also requires your husband to provide Survivor Benefit Plan coverage, your remarriage may affect your coverage. This flyer has good information:

  8. June says:

    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?

    • guest says:

      If he left after 17 years he gets nothing. If it's not in your divorce decree that you were to get X money of retirement it wouldn't matter if he did 20 years you wouldn't be entitled to a dime of it if it wasn't written into your decree at the time of the original divorce. If it is in the decree that you were to receive a portion you can request a copy of his DD214 through the FOIA act to see how many years of qualifying service he has

  9. emmaburch87 says:

    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?

    • guest says:

      You won't loose the portion of your ex's retirement if you remarry, you will lose Tricare coverage forever though and SBP while you are married.

      • Gayle says:

        Portion of ex's retirement; you loose if you marry prior to age 55. Tricare; if you take other insurance then you loose that, not sure on the marriage and Tricare. Call Tricare, they will explain in detail your options you don't want any errors.

        • guest says:

          Actually you don't loose portion of retirement if you remarry prior to age 55, she could loose SBP if she remarries prior to age 55 but it could be reinstated in event of divorce. Tricare is forfeited immediately and forever regardless of age or future marital status.

  10. Phyllis says:

    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

    • phyllis says:

      forgot to mention have never gotten a dime or anything from anyone involved.

    • KateKashman says:

      Phyllis, I am afraid I don't understand your details but the answer is the same regardless: retain a qualified attorney, preferrably one who is experienced in military divorce. Good luck to you.

      • Esther says:

        Also, if he is rated at at 50% or more he should be getting his full retirement pay separate from VA pay

  11. Kathleen says:

    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?

    • KateKashman says:

      While each state makes its own child support rules, veterans benefits are generally considered income in determining the amount of child support. What gets difficult is that federal benefits are usually not garnishable. However, veterans benefits that are being received in lieu of military retirement payments are able to be garnished for purposes of child support. This is part of the Social Security Act and is a specific exception to the general rule.

      I'm not sure why your ex-husband thinks that he doesn't need to pay child support just because the source of his income has changed. I definitely suggest that you pursue this issue. If you want to send me an email (the link is above at the left), I can send you some references for more information.

      Good luck to you.

  12. Janet says:

    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?

    • Kate says:

      Janet, continuation of income after death is a separate benefit from military retirement pay. The program is called the Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP.) Your husband can elect to cover you, his former spouse, under SBP, when he has to make the designation at the time of retirement. You should check your divorce decree and see if it includes anything about the SBP. If your divorce does not require him to provide SBP coverage, you might see if you can work out an arrangement with him to provide that coverage. It does have a cost, so you'd have to work out those details together.

  13. r penna says:

    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??

    • Kate says:

      If she was awarded a portion of his retirement in the divorce decree, that award is not affected by her remarriage.

  14. cherrie says:

    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


    • Kate says:

      Cherrie, please, please retain an attorney who is thoroughly experienced in military divorces. You absolutely do not want anyone advising you who is not an expert.

      That said, you may request a division of military retirement as part of your divorce settlement. Depending on the circumstances and how hard your husband fights it, it may or may not be granted.

      You will lose access to other military benefits, such as commissary and medical benefits, when your divorce is finalized. You will need to work with your nearest base as your children will still have base privileges.

      But do not trust me. Get a professional.

  15. K.D says:

    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.)

    • Kate says:

      K.D., there are many more factors here. I can\’t answer your questions thoroughly without knowing how many years you were married and how many of those married years overlapped with his active military service. There are different tiers of benefits for different situations, and there are also variables that depend on the terms of your divorce decree.

      If you can provide more info, we can give you more answers.

  16. rhonda says:

    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?

    • Kate says:

      Rhonda, widows who remarry are not eligible to regain their medical benefits, even if their subsequent marriage ends.

  17. Judy Altieri says:

    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.

    • Kate says:

      Judy, I can only comment on the legal and policy aspects of your question.

      Some benefits can be designated in a divorce decree, such as alimony, separation of retired pay, or Survivor Benefit Plan enrollment. Whatever the divorce decree says is what goes for those benefits. The military has no say in these benefits, other than to assist with the administration.

      Other benefits are determined by the military and are based upon your "status" as a former spouse. Do you meet the 20-20-20 rule, meaning twenty years of marriage, twenty years of your ex-spouse's military service, with twenty years overlapping? If you meet the 20-20-20 rule, then you are eligible for certain benefits regardless of your ex-husband's opinions or wishes. Those benefits include commissary privileges and medical coverage.

      When you say you were "getting benefits through 2009," it is important to explain which benefits and why you were getting them. If you are eligible for military-sponsored benefits because you qualify under the 20-20-20 rule, that eligibility does not end unless you remarry. If you were receiving certain benefits because of the terms of your divorce decree, then it would be up to the courts to enforce those terms. Military medical would not be one of them, unless your ex-husband was required, in your divorce decree, to provide you coverage under the CHCPB program for former beneficiaries.

      It is vitally important that you understand the situation clearly and the rules and policies as they apply to the situation. I strongly suggest that you check with the lawyer who handled your divorce to have the details explained to you.

  18. Geniese Rymer says:

    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!

    • Kate says:

      If your husband is disabled and you (together) are at a very low income, you might be eliglble for a small pension. You will need to contact the VA or look at to search for information on your specific situation.

  19. Cherry says:

    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?

    • Kate says:

      Cherry, I am so sorry that you are going through this. The good news is that you will retain your medical benefits because you are a 20-20-20 spouse. You need a good lawyer that thoroughly understand how military retirement and VA benefits work together. It gets very complicated when the retiree is receiving both, and then sometimes it can change after a divorce settlement has been finalized.

      This document has been prepared to help lawyers understand the nuances of the situation:

      It would be good for you to read it and for your lawyer to understand it. Good luck!

  20. bebe says:

    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.

    • Kate says:

      bebe, there are many different issues here. You may find faster answers by contacting the pass and ID office at your nearest military installation. First, what do you mean by "early out?" Does that mean early retirement? Also, were you married at the time of his death? If not, how long were you married and how much of your marriage overlapped with his time in the service.

      If you are eligible for retiree Tricare, or Tricare for Life, then you are probably eligible for commissary privileges. However, we'd need a lot more information and you are probably going to get faster answers from an actual military representative.

      Good luck to you!

  21. Leah says:

    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 .

    • Kate says:

      Leah, I am not an expert on Guard issues. However, I believe that Guard retiree pay is paid by the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS), just like active duty retired pay. If this is true, you can apply for your portion of his retirement pay to be sent directly to you.

      Also, the DFAS links have FAQs and attorney instructions that contain helpful information.

      Good luck to you!

  22. Exwife D says:

    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!

    • guest says:

      It is literally going to depend on the month you got married in 88 and the month you got divorced in 08, You have to be married to him for 20 years WHILE he was active duty to retain benefits. 19 years 11 month means you are NOT entitled to health care.

      100% disabled means that portion of his pay can't be divided so if your divorce decree entitled you to X percent of his retirement pay, all of his disability pay is excluded from that sine disability payments are protected for the veteran by federal law.

  23. Annie says:

    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

    • guest says:

      Since you remarried you are no longer eligible for Tricare/health benefits. Other benefits like commissary would depend on how long he was active duty while you were married. If he only served one term in WWII and wasn't active duty for the full 15 years you were married then you wouldn't be entitled to any benefits.

  24. Judy says:

    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

    • Kate says:

      Judy, divorce is a civil issue and the military will not get involved in any divorce. I suggest that you get a good divorce attorney that understands the benefits received by military retirees.

      Whether you are eligible for any sort of support should be decided between the two of you. If you can not agree, then it will be up to the courts to decide. Without knowing your specific details, I can not speculate whether the court would rule that you are eligible for any sort of support. Please be aware, and be sure that your lawyer thoroughly understands, how military retirement is divisible as a marital asset.

      Also, if you were married for a FULL 15 years of his military service, you may be eligible for limited benefits under the 20/20/15 rule:

      Please take a chunk of time to learn everything there is to know about your situation. Good luck to you!

      • guest says:

        Should also point out that she can claim Social Security if she is of age based on his earnings.

  25. Anne says:

    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?

    • Kate says:

      This is a tricky question, and there are many misconceptions about it. Child support should be calculated using all income, though details may vary from state to state. The confusion comes from the fact that there are laws that prevent garnishing of veterans benefits that are based upon disability. Many people believe that this means that benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs can not be used for child support. This is not true, and, in fact, there are ways to "apportion" veterans benefits to provide support to children.

      Please make sure you have your own lawyer who is very familiar with military pensions and veterans benefits. Just because your husband has drawn up papers does not mean that you have to agree to the terms he has included in his version of the divorce papers. You have the right to negotiate for terms that you want. This might include language that will compensate you for the offset of pension that will occur when/if he receives disability benefits. This is a tricky and important part of the law and requires an expert attorney to write properly. I receive many letters from former spouses who did not fight for themselves at the time of the divorce, and now regret that decision. Please don't join that club.

  26. Lila says:

    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?

    • guest says:

      Tricare ended at 12:01am the day after the divorce is finalized. There is no way to keep it without meeting 20/20/15 or 20/20/20

    • Bethany says:

      You may be eligible for the Continued Health Care Benefit Program. It has similar coverage to TriCare Standard, but it is for those who have recently become ineligible for TriCare. You do have to pay premiums. I think it's about $1200 per quarter.

  27. Jean Merriman says:

    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

    • Kate says:

      Mrs. Merriman, your niece's military benefits will end when the divorce is final. She will be eligible to pay for continuing health care benefits via the DOD Continued Health Care Benefit Program (CHCBP). This is a premium based temporary health care coverage program for 36 months of coverage. Enrollment must occur within 60 days of losing military health care benefits. More information can be found at this web address:

  28. Valerie says:

    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.

    • Kate says:

      I am assuming that your husband is retiring, and you are deciding if the Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) is the right choice for your family? You need to take some time and learn about it before making a decision. It is an important decision and it can not be changed after it is made.

      In my opinion, SBP is a great choice for most military families. It is basically a low-cost life insurance policy that converts to an annuity upon the death of the insured (the retiree.) It provides lifetime income that is inflation adjusted. It does require a monthly premium to be paid out of the retirement paycheck.

      There is information here at the Paycheck Chronicles about the Survivor Benefit Plan, and many other good resources across the internet.

      I hope that helps.

  29. Renae says:

    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?

    • Kate says:

      Renae, you are not "entitled" to anything. Each side, with their lawyer, will look at your overall financial situation and propose a division of property. Together, you will try to come to a division to which you can both agree. If you can not agree, it will be up to the judge to decide.

      From any perspective, I can't imagine you receiving any portion of his military retirement. The general idea in most divorce settlements is to divide the assets that were obtained during the marriage, and that each person retains the assets that they brought to the marriage. Obviously, this is very dependent on individual situations, and no two settlements are the same. However, your husband obtained his military pension before you married. It wouldn't make sense for you to be awarded a portion of the pension.

  30. wise says:

    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. MarGu says:

    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?

    • Kate says:

      MarGu, probably not. The 20-20-20 law allows an extension of benefits to spouses who were married for 20 years, whose military sponsor served for 20 years, and who had those two things overlap by 20 years.

      I don't know if there is any way to reopen a divorce case – I don't think so. It might be worth talking to a lawyer to ask them. Not only will they know the laws in your state but they will also know how the judges tend to interpret those laws.

      Good luck to you.

  32. lisa says:

    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

    • Kate says:

      A divorce is not a military issue. Any support or compensation has to be organized in the settlement agreement or divorce decree, depending on state law. Your friend is not eligible for any military benefits after her divorce.

  33. Stephanie says:

    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?

    • Kate says:

      Stephanie, you are not "entitled" to anything. The law permits you to be awarded whatever amount is agreed to by you and your husband (if you can hash out a settlement agreement) or by the courts if you and your husband can not agree. The division of retirement pay is complicated and includes many factors such as the Survivor Benefit Plan, disability compensation, etc. It is important that you each have a lawyer that knows military benefits very, very well. Good luck to you!

    • Kate says:

      Stephanie, you are not "entitled" to anything. The law permits the division of military retirement as a marital asset. Ideally, you and your husband will craft a settlement agreement between the two of you, perhaps with the help of a mediator. Otherwise, you will have to ask the courts to decide. (Details vary by state.)

      A good lawyer who understands military compensation will help you come up with a separation of assets that takes into consideration each parties' contribution to the family's income and assets, including not only military retirement but also other assets such as houses, cars, etc. Other things that must be considered are the Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) and disability compensation.

      In order to maximize the chances of having an equitable division of assets, you should each have a lawyer that understands military divorce.

      Please do not listen to anyone who tells you that you are entitled to any specific portion of your husband's retirement pay. There are no rules or laws about this. The law only PERMITS division of retirement pay, it does not require it or specify amounts. It was designed to protect spouses who had been married for a very long time and had not worked or gone to school because they were specifically supporting their husband's military career.

      Good luck to you.

  34. Candid Copy says:

    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!

    • Kate says:

      Candid Copy, this is not accurate. The only thing that happens at 10 years of marriage is that IF the support agreement or divorce decree specifies a division of retirement pay, the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) is permitted to make payments directly to the next spouse.

      Base legal is not permitted to get involved with divorce, as it is a civilian issue. They can give very general advice. Anyone who is seeking a divorce, civilian or military, needs a good lawyer who understands all the details and ramifications of their particular situation.

  35. Pamela says:

    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?

    • Kate says:

      Pamela, you are not entitled to any benefits from your first husband for three reasons: he did not serve long enough, you were not married long enough, and you have remarried.

      If your second marriage ends in the death of your retired Marine husband, you will retain Tricare retiree health insurance (and then Tricare for Life), commissary and exchange privileges, and other base privileges. Whether you will have any income from his service depends. He was eligible to purchase Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) coverage to provide income after his death, but that election has to occur within one year of your marriage.

      In addition, if he is receiving VA disability benefits, you *might* be eligible for benefits after his death based upon the cause of death and it's relationship to his military service.

      Good luck to you.

  36. Mitzi says:

    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

    • Kate says:

      Mitzi, you're asking a complicated question and one that is way beyond my qualifications, even if I had all of the necessary information, In a general sense, VA disability benefits are considered to be the sole property of the veteran. However, disability benefits can be taken into consideration when looking at a person's entire income. Without knowing what other income each of you have, and what other relevant issues there might be, I can not speculate on whether your request is fair or appropriate.

      My first recommendation would be that you seek the services of a good lawyer, and then a mediator to try to come to a mutually satisfactory agreement. If not, you'll have to see what the courts say. Honestly, the courts can be very fickle and I would try to reach an agreement outside of court.

      Good luck to you.

  37. lORI says:

    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!!! :)

    • Kate says:

      IORI, it is very unusual for the terms of a divorce decree to be changed at a later date. There is no way to divide retirement pay for a certain period of time…that would have to be done as some other form of support such as alimony. If the settlement agreement or court order says that retirement pay is divided, then that is what will happen.

      While it seems an unlikely case, your fiance can try and see if he can have the settlement agreement changed. Of course, his ex-wife is likely to fight this request. At the very least, this will require a lawyer that thoroughly understand the law as it applies to military retirement pay.

      Please remember that this is not a military issue, but a civilian issue The only thing about it that has to do with the military is that it is a military pension that is being divided. It is just like the division of any other asset (house, car, business, etc.) Also, there is no "entitled" in the law. It is a matter of agreement between the two parties, or in the event they can not agree, the decision of the court. The law does not make any recommendations or suggestions regarding the division of retirement pay, it just says that retirement pay may be divided.

    • Sniz says:

      Yes, I have been married for 12 yrs to my ex military spouse. I am divorced now for 5 yrs, and he finally retired. He served 20, but yes I can remarry and will still get half of his retirement. I was told that by Dfas, On the other hand he retired and I can't collect his retirement from Dfas, now that they say he is disabled , I have to try to collect with the VA. And I was told throughVA counsel that when I ask for financial help I have to do a application call a apportionment an even though I have two kids by him, I can't say on my application I need child support, I need to state it differently and say I need financial help from my ex. So as of now that's the process I am going through and I will be going after 401k or tsp or something to get my half of retirement some way from him, because I am still entitled to it.

      • guest says:

        Hate to break it to you, since you sound so absolutely vindictive, you CAN'T go after his TSP or 401k 5 years post divorce, that's why it's called a FINAL dissolution of marriage. Gook luck trying to get disability pay, it's protected by federal law. You are entitled to half the retirement pay, NOT disability pay. If he is not receiving retirement pay, then you are entitled to 50% of absolutely ZERO outside of child support. Go get a dang job, I hope he hires a seriously good lawyer to protect the benefits HE earned from you.

  38. vivienne says:

    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

    • Kate says:

      Vivienne, retired military pay ends with the death of the service member. If your husband and you selected the Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) income continuation program at the time of his retirement, you may be eligible for SBP benefits. Your best bet is to contact the Defense Finance Accounting Service (DFAS) at, and apply for these benefits. They will then research whether he carried SBP coverage.

  39. Kathy Little says:

    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.

    • Kate says:

      Ms. Little, your mother-in-law certainly falls under the 20/20/20 rule. She lost the benefits available under this rule when she remarried, but if her subsequent marriage ended in divorce or death, some benefits may be reinstated. These include commissary and exchange shopping privileges and use of most base facilities. She will need to talk to the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS) office at the closest military installation to figure out what documentation she will need to obtain a military identification card.

      With regard to life insurance, I can only help if she is talking about Veterans Group Life Insurance (VGLI) or the Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP.) VGLI is administered through the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the instructions for making a claim can be found here:

      Survivor Benefit Plan claims are made through the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) and instructions for filing can be found here:

      Good luck!

  40. KateKashman says:

    Rachel, let me start by saying that you need a good attorney who is very familiar with the military. A divorce is too big an issue for you to try to handle it on your own. It is important that it be handled correctly the first time because there is no second time! I'm sure this is a stressful period of time for you, and you need the experience and judgement of an outsider.

    The final decision on which pays are used for calculating child support will be up to the court where you file for divorce. There are rules and guidelines but it seems that the courts don't always understand them or follow them.

    Good luck to you1