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Military Divorce and Your Right to Continued TRICARE Coverage


As you no doubt know if you are a military spouse, TRICARE is the health care program administered by the United States Department of Defense Military Health System. And if you're considering divorce, or think your spouse is, you're probably wondering what will happen to your TRICARE coverage afterward.

TRICARE offers excellent coverage without a lot of the red tape people have come to expect with traditional insurance programs, so it's not surprising that military spouses going through divorce often want to keep their coverage through the program. If you're one of them, here's what you need to know.

The 20/20/20 Rule

As a general rule, TRICARE coverage for ex-spouses of military service members at 12:01 a.m. on the day of the divorce. However, there are certain limited circumstances under which your coverage can continue. One of these is commonly known as the 20/20/20 rule, for the three following eligibility requirements:

  • 20 Your service member spouse has at least 20 years of creditable service towards determining retirement pay;
  • You were married to that service member for at least 20 years; and
  • All 20 years of your marriage overlap the 20 years of creditable service, either active or reserve, which counted towards your service member spouse's retirement.

Those ex-spouses meeting all of the above criteria are eligible for continued lifetime TRICARE coverage as their own sponsors.

Ex-spouses who meet the above criteria, except that only fifteen years of their marriage overlapped with their ex-spouse's creditable service, are also eligible for continued coverage based on the date of the divorce. For marriages ending after September 29, 1988, ex-spouses who meet the criteria of the 20/20/15 rule are eligible for one year of continued coverage. Not nearly as good as lifetime coverage, but certainly better than nothing.

However, even if you initially qualify for continued coverage under one of these rules, you can lose coverage, and will not be able to reinstate it if you remarry. This is true even if your remarriage ends in death or divorce, unless of course you gain eligibility again under your subsequent spouse. You will also permanently lose TRICARE coverage if you purchase and receive coverage from an employer-sponsored health plan.

What About the Kids?

The good news is, any minor children you had together with your service member spouse will still be covered until at least age 21, and up to 23 if they are in college and meet certain criteria. This coverage includes both biological and adopted children. After dependent children age out of coverage, they are eligible to purchase TRICARE Young Adult which will cover them until age 26. However, any of your children from a previous relationship who were not adopted by your military spouse sponsor will also lose coverage upon the divorce.

Have more questions about military divorce? The San Diego attorneys of Shaffer & Associates represent service members and spouses of service members in California military divorces in San Diego County and the surrounding communities, including Orange County, Riverside County and Los Angeles County. Contact Shaffer & Associates online or call (619) 230-1030 today to discuss how we may be of help in your case.

Categories: Divorce

San Diego Bar AssociationSection of Family LawCalifornia State Bar Family Law American Bar Association Avvo Clients' Choice 2014