Understanding The 20/20/20 Rule


While divorce is essentially a civil issue, there are certain aspects of a divorce that are unique to the military.  One important consideration is how the 20/20/20 or 20/20/15 rules will impact post-divorce benefits for the former spouses of military service members or retirees.  These rules provide certain post-divorce military benefits and privileges to former spouses of military service members.

The 20/20/20 Rule

The primary rule is called the 20/20/20 rule.  It has this name because it applies to former spouses who meet these criteria:

  • the two parties were married for 20 years,
  • the military member served for 20 years, and
  • the marriage and the military service overlapped by 20 years.

Under the 20/20/20 rule, the former spouse retains most military benefits and privileges after the divorce, including access to Tricare health care coverage (with certain restrictions), commissary and exchange shopping privileges, and other base privileges such as the MWR facilities.  Former spouses who are covered under employer-provided health coverage are not eligible to also use Tricare, but may decline employer-sponsored health care coverage if it is optional.

If the former spouse remarries, 20/20/20 benefits end.  In this situation, Tricare benefits end permanently.  Shopping benefits may be reinstated if the subsequent marriage ends due to death, divorce, or annulment.

(One  commenter requests that I add here that if the subsequent marriage is to another military member or retiree, that the new marriage will make the former spouses again eligible for Tricare and shopping privileges.  I think that is sort of obvious – what do you think?)

The 20/20/15 Rule

The 20/20/15 rule offers only Tricare medical coverage, and for a limited period of time.  Eligibility for 20/20/15 benefits require that:

  • the two parties were married for 20 years,
  • the military member served for 20 years, and
  • the marriage and the military service overlapped by 15 years.

Former spouses who qualify for 20/20/15 benefits will be eligible for Tricare health insurance coverage for one year from the date of divorce or annulment.  Again, former spouses who are eligible for employer-sponsored health coverage through their employment are not eligible for the Tricare benefit, unless their plan is optional and they do not use it.

More information about Former Spouse medical coverage can be found at the Tricare website.  More information about other base privileges can be found in the Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act pamphlet created by the legal office at Joint Base Andrews.



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.
  • USFSPA Killer

    Yes, Kate, it is “obvious” but only to those who are somewhat familiar with the ins and outs of military marriage benefits and divorce losses. However, you were right and helpful in noting that issue in your opening summary as most military couples don’t know about after divorce benefit carry-overs because who gets married with an intent to divorce at the time of marriage ? (PS – only “gold diggers” do !)

  • It’s time that former spouse be updated and changed! With all the budget cuts and outdated legislation it’s been since 1972 that this law have some changes. No other govt agency has these benefits for former spouses!

    • USFSPA Killer

      kjhue – The USFSPA was signed into law on 8 Sept 1982 (NOT 1972) with an effective date of 25 June 1981 ! It has been reformed 23 times by various Congress’s – 18 of these reforms favored ONLY the former spouse, 4 of these reforms were an equal benefit (tie) to both the f/s and the retiree and ONLY – O-N-E – benefited the retiree (and it was a very small benefit at that) ! – Now, tell me if “Congress supports the troops” – HA – What a load of bull! Let’s see – Audit USFSPA 101 Class is filling up – not many seats left – hurry to sign up before all seats are taken by other retirees who have been hooked into payinng their ex’s “advisor” for LIFE ! ! ! ! !

  • USFSPA Killer

    Actually, there’s nothing you can do now except campaign to tell others about the unconstitutionality of the USFSPA ! DFAS will not accept her DD Form 2293 application for direct payment because your marriage and service time overlap was not 10 years or more. DFAS will return her application to her without action. Yes, kangaroo divorce courts pull a lot of very illegal stuff even awarding 100% of it to the former spouse ! ! !

  • K. Roth

    I am now divorced and doing quite well. I fall under the 20/20/20 rule. Do my benefits from this continue until I die or until my former spouce passes away? I know they will cease if I remarry but not sure how it “works” if he passes away. Thank you! (trying to plan for retirement)

    • Kate

      As long as you do not remarry, your 20-20-20 benefits will remain unchanged even if your former spouse predeceases you. I am glad to hear that things are working out well for you.

  • Greg

    Hello I am a retired service member and my ex wife will qualify for the 20/20/20 rule for Tricare. My question is what will the premiums be for her as this may need to be paid for by me so I am trying to see what I may be looking at…

  • USFSPA Killer

    There are no premiums – TRICARE Standard is free. Your ex will be billed for any co-pays or deductibles. You will not get billed for her responsbgilities as her TRICARE account will be under her SSN, not yours. You will have no responsibility for any of her medical services. N.B. – Not legal advice nor am I a lawyer.

  • migdalia rosa

    I am a former spouse I fall under the 20/20/15 rule what happens when my ex-retires from the military do i get my I.D. back and what about my alimony after he retires.

    • USFSPA Killer

      Your military dependant entitlements ended the day your divorce was final (judge signs it). If you are already divorced, you are not now entitled to any miliary spouse benefits, nor will you be after he retires and you should have already given your ID back to your ex so he can turn it in. As for “alimony”, you will have to fill out and sign a DD Form 2293 and send the required attachments to DFAS in Cleveland, Ohio to start your payments after your ex retires from the military. Note that YOU and only YOU can sign the DD Form 2293. The amount of your payments will be set by the court in your divorce decree. The judge CANNOT tell DFAS to extend any benefits to you – you are not entitled per what you said and no matter what the judge orders for you.

    • Kate

      Ms. Rosa, former spouses who fall under the 20/20/15 rule are eligible to maintain their military I.D. for one year following the date of divorce. After the 1 year period has ended, 20/20/15 spouses no longer have any benefits provided by the Department of Defense.

      With regard to alimony, that is a civil issue and is handled as specified in your divorce decree. The military has no impact on your alimony settlement.