Military spouse benefits are one of the more complicated areas to discuss when considering a divorce. If you are a future military retiree, a current military retiree, or a spouse or former spouse seeking advice on this topic, here is some basic information you should know.
When getting divorced in California with potential military benefits on the table, it is a very good idea to seek experienced legal advice so you know how to proceed, and to understand the impact the divorce will have on you and your family.
In fact, it is imperative to engage the services of a divorce attorney for military members and spouses in San Diego or the surrounding areas, as they will understand the details of family law as well as how it pertains to military spouse benefits after divorce.
The issues to look at include:
How legal separation vs. divorce impacts military benefits
In case of a legal separation judgment, the military recognizes that the parties are still married and therefore benefits will continue to the non-military spouse.
Medical benefits when divorce is complete
Medical benefits cannot be continued after a divorce but the former spouse can get post-divorce medical coverage very similar to COBRA benefits under the Continued Health Care Benefit Program (CHCBP) for up to three years. To receive this benefit, the former spouse must pay for the monthly premium himself or herself.
If the former spouse also gets some of the member’s retirement pay or is the beneficiary of a Survivor Benefit Program (SBP), this coverage could continue for life, but it can be expensive. You may also want to look into the Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act for other potential benefits and coverage.
The SBP provides, for a lifetime, income for a surviving spouse in case of the death of a retired service member. The premiums vary and are elected during the retirement paperwork phase. If the surviving spouse remarries before age 55, the benefits will stop, but if they marry again after age 55 they will continue for life.
Military retirement benefits accrue based on service members retiring with 20 or more years of service, with a multiplier based on that service and the last three years of pay. The former spouse can receive a portion of these benefits depending on whether there is what’s called a 20/20/20 or a 20/20/15 benefit, and continued health insurance benefits under Tricare are paid according to the length of marriage and service.
This savings plan is very much like a public version of a 401K and provides similar benefits.
No right to any portion of VA Disability
If a service member is retired due to medical disability, this is not an asset that is divisible in a divorce and the former spouse cannot reach this benefit for any reason.
Questions can also arise around the issue of the military Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH). The former spouse can remain in family housing only so long as they are not divorced. After the divorce, that party must vacate family housing.
ID cards for children
Another aspect of military family law is child care coverage and benefits. Minor children of the service member and former spouse still retain their military I.D. cards and access to on-base facilities and benefits, including housing, and thus this is one benefit that can accrue to a former spouse. The parent/former spouse can reside in housing with the children who have their I.D. and the right to live in military housing.
It is important to discuss all these topics with the military spouse divorce attorneys you retain to help guide you through the dissolution of your marriage. Military family law can be complex when it comes to divorce, but an experienced attorney will be the key to getting through the process.
The Importance of the CFLS Designation
A Certified Family Law Specialist, or CFLS, is an attorney who has obtained certification in the standards of California family law and demonstrated optimal legal competence. Attorneys who obtain this certification have specific expertise in all aspects of family law, which includes divorce or the dissolution of marriage, child and spousal support, child custody, and temporary restraining orders, among other areas of emphasis.
Not every attorney practicing family law has obtained this certification. In fact, the designation remains relatively rare—there are fewer than 2,000 CFLS attorneys in California and fewer than 200 in San Diego.