Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Military Divorce and the 20-20-20 Rule

I have a long family history of military involvement. The Pennsylvania Army National Guard, in particular, is a favorite military choice of many of my relatives. Others have joined the Marines, Air Force and Navy. My family has served here, in the Gulf War, in World War II, in Vietnam and recently my brother served three tours in Iraq with the Marines. I am proud of them all and thankful for their dedicated service.
As a divorce attorney, I am often asked about military benefits and what a former spouse may or may not enjoy when the divorce is finalized. Often the military retirement package is the most substantial asset in the marriage. In general, a military spouse will be entitled to some portion of military retirement. The portion of entitlement is based on the servicemember's years of military service, the years of the marriage, and how many years of service overlap the marriage.
Health insurance may also be available to former spouses and entitlement is determined by a calculation called the 20-20-20 Rule. If you have been married for 20 years, your spouse has been in the military for at least 20 years, and you have 20 years of marriage overlapping the 20 years of service, then the former spouse is entitled to the same benefits as the servicemember spouse - meaning health care and full commissary benefits. If there have been 20 years of service, and 20 years of marriage, but only 15 years of marriage overlap the service years, the former spouse is entitled to health care for a year after the divorce is finalized.
There are other rules and benefits to be aware of if you are getting a divorce and your spouse is in the military. I encourage you to find out what you are entitled to before you sign any divorce paperwork or go into a courtroom.

Divorce, Housing & the Economy

I have been hearing buzz that more and more "separating" or divorcing couples have decided to remain living together due to the economic infeasibility of maintaining two households given the current economy. While it is not ideal for unhappy couples to continue to remain under the same household unless they can set their differences aside, especially when there are children involved, ideal and reality seem to have parted ways. However, even couples with children who just cannot continue living together can find creative ways to manage two households. One solution could be to retain the marital residence for the sake of the children and also rent an inexpensive small efficiency or one bedroom apartment. The children could continue to reside in the marital residence, thereby preserving their familiar lifestyle, friends, location, while the parents rotate between the apartment and the house. It is certainly something to consider.