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What becomes of my military benefits as a civilian spouse in divorce?

| Jun 16, 2021 | Divorce |

As someone going through a divorce, you don’t likely need anyone to tell you how overwhelming and all-consuming this process can be. You may find the divorce process even more challenging when your spouse is a service member, though.

You have likely grown accustomed to receiving certain benefits reserved for service members and their families during your marriage, whether as a result of you having a military identification card or just as perks of the job. You may wonder what happens with those benefits now that you’re facing a divorce.

What happens with your military ID during your impending divorce?

Military ID cards don’t belong to your spouse, but instead the United States government. Article 121 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice prohibits service members from depriving their spouse’s military ID from them just because they are getting divorced. A service member may face larceny charges if they do.

Civilian spouses generally lose their military ID and other associated benefits with being married to a service member upon their divorce’s finalization. There are two exceptions to this rule:

  1. When a service member and their civilian spouse’s marriage lasted for at least twenty years.
  2. A service member is at least a 20-year veteran eligible for retirement pay, and the marriage and service overlap by at least twenty years.

Instances in which there is only a 15-year overlap between the marriage and military service may entitle you, as a civilian spouse, to receive only one year of medical benefits from the date of your divorce’s finalization.

What happens with your right to military housing during an impending divorce?

The U.S. Department of Defense only issues military housing to service members. They do so to give service members a way to live on base with their spouse and/or children. Military law prohibits service members from evicting their spouse or other dependents from the home during an impending divorce. The military may order the service member to reside in a dormitory or barracks if a domestic dispute occurs.

How can you prepare for what’s to come as you divorce your military spouse?

Many complexities make a military divorce different from a civilian one. You may find it helpful to learn more about those differences so that you can adequately prepare yourself for what to expect as your own case unfolds.