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Civilian spouses might have protections in a military divorce

When a member of the military is married to a civilian, that civilian is given some special privileges. These include access to medical care, as well as the ability to shop at the commissary or exchange. If the civilian and the military member divorce, the civilian might be eligible to receive certain benefits.

The Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act sets forth the standards and laws that are used when a military divorce occurs. This includes establishing the 20/20/20 law that sets the standard for allowing former spouses access to health care, as well as exchange and commissary privileges. The access and privileges are usually in effect as long as the civilian isn't remarried and continues to meet the requirements necessary for the programs.

The 20/20/20 rule means that the marriage lasted at least 20 years and that at least 20 years of the marriage overlapped at least 20 years of military service. There are some instances in which a 10/10/10 rule applies; however, this isn't as common and doesn't provide the same benefits and protections as the 20/20/20 rule.

The USFSPA is especially useful the marriage has been a lengthy one and the service member is nearing retirement or has already retired. This act allows the retirement pay be treated in the same manner as a pension plan in a civilian divorce.

In addition to the retirement pay designation, the USFSPA also allows a former spouse to be named as a beneficiary for the Survivor Benefit Plan. This plan provides the beneficiary with an income if the retired service member passes away.

Making sure that all of these points are considered when a divorce occurs between a military member and a civilian is crucial. Understanding the programs and laws is a good place to start in Florida.

Source: Military.com, "Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Overview," accessed April 29, 2016

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