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TRICARE eligibility for spouses, children in a military divorce

Health care is a major concern for Dayton residents today, as it is for Americans across the country. Military service members and their families are fortunately able to obtain comprehensive care through the TRICARE program. In the event of a military divorce, TRICARE eligibility is something that separating spouses and their legal teams will want to take into consideration.

For the sponsor -- that is, the service member through whom a spouse and any children or dependents qualify for TRICARE -- eligibility will not change with a divorce. The sponsor's children will also retain eligibility for TRICARE, assuming they are the sponsor's dependents. This is true whether they are the sponsor's biological or adopted children, but any stepchildren not formally adopted by the sponsor will lose their eligibility after the divorce.

The sponsor's spouse will generally lose TRICARE eligibility after the divorce, technically at one minute past midnight on the day the divorce is effective. There are a few exceptions, however, known as the "20-20-20" and "20-20-15" rules. These apply to marriages that lasted at least 20 years and where the sponsor had at least 20 years of military service that counted toward his or her retirement pay. If those criteria both apply, and at least 15 years of the marriage overlapped with the military service, a spouse may continue to retain a degree of eligibility.

A spouse losing TRICARE eligibility in a divorce will want to consider the financial impact of having to find his or her own health insurance (and coverage for any children as well), perhaps factoring this in when determining spousal support and child support amounts. If continued eligibility is a possibility, one will want to be sure to understand what rule applies (20-20-20 or 20-20-15) and just what level of coverage will be available after the divorce. A legal professional can help answer these questions and avoid any unpleasant surprises in health coverage once a military divorce is final.

Source: Tricare.mil, "Getting Divorced," accessed on Jan. 5, 2018

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