December 01, 2017

The “20/20/20 Rule” in a Military Divorce

Chris Barondeau

Reprinted with permission from the ABA Section of Family Law eNewsletter, November 2017. © 2017 American Bar Association. All rights reserved. This information or any or portion thereof may not be copied or disseminated in any form or by any means or stored in an electronic database or retrieval system without the express written consent of the American Bar Association.

A divorce can be a complicated situation to say the least. Throw in the fact that one of the parties has spent a significant number of years serving in the military, and additional complexities are sure to appear. One specific issue relates to the “20/20/20 Rule.” This Rule ultimately provides additional benefits for the non-military spouse if certain requirements are met.


What Is the 20/20/20 Rule?

First, in order for the 20/20/20 Rule to be in play, the following criteria must be met:

  1. The military spouse has at least 20 years of creditable service towards determining retirement pay;
  2. You have been married to the same military spouse for at least 20 years; and,
  3. All 20 years of marriage overlap the 20 years of creditable (Active or Reserve) service which counted towards the military spouse’s retirement.

The application and eligibility requirements concerning the 20/20/20 Rule are defined in greater detail in the Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act (USFSPA).


What If I Meet the Criteria for Application of the 20/20/20 Rule?

If the non-military spouse meets the criteria outlined above, they may be eligible to receive ongoing health insurance coverage through TRICARE as well as the continued use of military exchange and commissary facilities. However, in order to receive these benefits, the former spouse must show that the marriage last at least 20 years, that the military spouses service lasted at least 20 years, and that both of these 20-year terms overlapped for at least 20 years. Being able to establish the 20-year overlap is critical to the non-military spouse’s ability to gain access to these benefits post-divorce.



As stated above, military divorces can be more complicated than civilian ones. As such, make sure to contact a military divorce attorney to advise you on your specific situation and how your circumstances can impact your rights as part of an anticipated divorce.


Chris Barondeau is a divorce attorney with the Goosmann Law Firm in Sioux City, Iowa, and is licensed in Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota. He focuses his practice on family law and trials. He currently serves in the Nebraska Army National Guard, and early in his military career he deployed to Iraq, where he operated a vehicle used to locate roadside bombs. He is the editor of the Section of Family Law’s Roll Call. He may be reached at