Divorce In The Military:

Divorce In The Military


Military divorce, is defined as a divorce where one of the parties (the "service member") is active duty military, reserve or guard, or retired military. If you are in the military or have a military spouse, there are some additional factors that can affect your divorce that the typical civilian couple will not have to address. 

Further, these factors may prolong the divorce process because of the very nature of one of the party's military service, such as an active duty assignment in a remote area, or a permanent station overseas.

When someone is considering divorce in the military, it's always best to be aware of what can happen before you proceed. You see, getting a military divorce is different than getting a civilian divorce in a lot of ways. 

Considerations for military service men and women when they decide to separate from their spouse include:

Payment of Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH)

Payment of Basic Allowance for Sustenance (BAS)

No contact orders

Moving out of their home


​All married military service members receive a basic housing allowance. BAH is designed to subsidize housing costs for our military. However, when a man or woman in the military separates from their spouse, they should plan to give them ALL of their BAH! That's right, all of it! Their command will order them to pay their spouse the full amount of their BAH, even if there are children and regardless of where the children are going to live.

BAS is another allowance that soldiers are given to supplement their food costs. BAS averages out to about $10 per day for food. A soldier can expect to pay their soon-to-be ex at least half of their Basic Allowance for Sustenance (BAS). If a soldier is ordered to give their spouse half, it leaves them about $5 per day to eat on. 

Besides understanding the basic divorce process, military couples should be knowledgeable about the role of the Uniformed Services Former Spouses' Protection Act. The USFSPA provides a federal statute for the military, guiding them to accept state statutes on addressing various issues, such as child support, spousal support and military retirement pay/pension. 

While states have always had the authority to treat retirement and pension plans just like any other marital asset, the USFSPA permits the states to classify military retired pay as property, as opposed to income.

Military Retirement Pay/Pension

Direct retirement payments are made through the Defense Finance and Accounting Service. In order for the military to provide direct retirement payments to an ex-spouse, the couple must have been married 10 years overlapping with 10 years of service.

Not qualifying for the DFAS direct pay does not mean you are ineligible to a portion of the payment. In order to receive your portion, the criteria would need to be included as part of the marriage settlement agreement. Keep in mind that the award of military retired pay may be in addition to child support, and alimony or maintenance.

Thrift Savings Plan

The thrift savings plan is treated the same as a 401(k). There are specific requirements that must be met by the court order that differ from a civilian retirement plan division order. 

Survivor Benefits Plan

Many spouses think that if they were the beneficiary of the Survivor Benefit Plan while married, they will remain so upon divorce. This is not true, and SBP is a mutually exclusive benefit that must be addressed in the divorce settlement. 

Base Privileges

Base privileges such as commissary, exchange, and theater privileges depend on what is known as the "20/20/20 rule":

You were married to your former spouse for at least 20 years

Your ex-spouse was in the military for at least 20 years, and

Your marriage overlapped the time in service by at least 20 years

If all three of these apply you are entitled to full base privileges as long as you don't remarry.


TRICARE eligibility also is determined by the 20/20/20 rule. If you qualify under the rule above, you may be eligible for TRICARE as long as you don't remarry. If you don't qualify under the 20/20/20 rule, TRICARE has transitional coverage available under the 20/20/15 rule:

It is clear how difficult it can be for a service man or woman in the military to divorce, especially if there are children involved. These difficulties often find soldiers in the military giving up on their pursuit of custody or visitations, because it seems so hopeless. Besides understanding the basic divorce process, it is imperative to be knowledgeable in the factors that will affect your divorce as a result of military service. 

As a CFDA®, I can help you sort through the financial ramifications of divorce, and empower you with knowledge to help you make the best financial decisions. Call me today for a free consult: 907-347-3860

Tags: military divorce, divorce help, Payment of Basic Allowance for Housing, BAH, Payment of Basic Allowance for Sustenance, BAS, No contact orders, Moving out of the home, Custody, Visitations, TRICARE, base privileges, survivor benefits, military divorce tips, military pension

This information is not intended to be a substitute for seeking legal advice from an attorney. For legal or tax advice please seek the services of a qualified attorney and/or qualified tax professional.

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