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How Is Military Divorce Different?

You may be surprised to learn that military divorce and civilian divorce are not quite the same.

To be a member of the military is to be someone with a truly unique occupation. As a result, the circumstances surrounding any legal issues will also be unique, including that of divorce.

Where to File for Divorce

When a person files for civilian divorce, they usually do so in the state they currently reside. This is the same for military divorce, but with a slight difference. The active-duty spouse should be the one to file in their state of residency. According to the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act (USFSPA), the state of legal residence of the active-duty spouse has the power to divide the military pension.

If the civilian spouse files for divorce in a state that isn’t the legal residence of the military spouse, the court will not have authority to divide the pension. The military spouse could still consent to the court’s division of their pension, but the process is complicated. It is always a good idea to seek advice from a military divorce attorney to help navigate the process.

Health Coverage

When a person is married to someone in the military, they receive the same health benefits as their spouse. For this reason, divorce may make things difficult if the civilian spouse relied on their partner for healthcare. There are two healthcare options for the civilian spouse after divorce:


TRICARE is a no-cost healthcare plan available to ex-spouses who were married to their military partners for 20 years or more. This is also known as the 20/20/20 rule (20 years of marriage, 20 years of service, and 20 years of overlap). If the marriage almost fulfills the rule, a court may be asked to hold off on the divorce until the rule has been fully met.

If the ex-spouse has their own insurance coverage, they could still use TRICARE as a secondary insurance payor. The primary insurance company would be responsible for paying the portion of the bill covered under insurance, and TRICARE would then be billed for any remaining amount.

To receive lifetime TRICARE benefits, the couple would have to remain unmarried. If they remarry at any point, TRICARE coverage would be permanently lost.

  1. Continued Health Care Benefit Program (CHCBP)

Any former military spouse who doesn’t qualify for TRICARE can purchase conversion health coverage. If the military member leaves the service while the non-military spouse is using CHCBP, they will be covered for 36 months after the date of the divorce. A non-military spouse can also be covered by CHCBP permanently if they:

  • are entitled to a share of the military member’s pension;
  • are not remarried and under the age of 55;
  • pay quarterly advance premiums; and
  • meet application deadlines.

Military Pension

Sorting out military pension is the most difficult part of a military divorce. Like the 20/20/20 rule, pension has a 10/10 rule. If the spouses were married for 10 years and the military member was on active duty for those 10 years, the civilian spouse is entitled to a garnishment of the pension.

To get a pension check, a civilian spouse will need a court order stating:

  • the names, addresses, and Social Security numbers of the parties;
  • the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) will make payments;
  • the amount of pension in 1 of 4 accepted formats;
  • it will be sent to the retired pay center with appropriate forms and a copy of the divorce decree; and
  • it complies with all DFAS rules.

Contact Cynthia Tracy Attorney at Law, P.C.

Our team of military divorce attorneys understands how complicated it can be for a civilian to navigate the military legal system. We will guide and advise you on a course of action to achieve the results you are seeking.

Call our firm at (281) 612-5443 or contact us online for a legal consultation.