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Military spouses undergoing divorce face additional challenges when ending their marriage because they are governed by federal law in addition to state laws. But spouses in a military divorce have important rights.

The federal Servicemembers Civil Relief Act provides for a stay or postponement of a state court or administrative proceedings if a servicemember proves that their duties prevent them from attending. There are also some protections afforded on default judgments when a servicemember does not respond to divorce filings or appear at a legal proceeding.

The Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act also provides benefits to former spouses of servicemembers. A former spouse who does not remarry may receive health care, commissary and theater privileges if that spouse meets the 20/20/20 rule.

To meet 20/20/20 rule requirements, the former spouse had to be married to the servicemember for at least 20 years when they divorced or dissolved or annulled their marriage. Also, the servicemember engaged in at least 20 years of creditable service for determining retirement pay and the former spouse was married to the military member during at least 20 years of their retirement-creditable service.

Military TRICARE medical coverage is available to former spouses if the servicemember engaged in 20 good years of service, the marriage lasted 20 years or more and it overlapped the service period by at least 15 years.

If the 20/20/20 rule is met, a former spouse may continue to receive commissary, exchange and health care benefits until their divorce is final. But they will usually lose military installation housing within 30 days of the service member of other family members moving because of the divorce. The former spouse’s moving costs may be paid for return from an overseas station.

When TRICARE benefits are lost, the former spouse may buy up to 36 months of temporary benefits. Eligible children may receive these benefits up to 21-years-old or 23 if they are in college.

Each military branch has their own rules temporarily governing spousal and child support upon separation if there is no court order. Any court order must be sent to DFAS to allow salary withholding for support.

A lawyer can help spouses work through these laws. They can help assure that a spouse’s rights are protected.