Tricare for Divorcing Spouses
TRICARE is healthcare coverage for retired and active duty military personnel of the seven different branches of the uniformed services, including members of the National Guard/Reserve. Spouses, children and stepchildren are also covered.
A problem arises in eligibility for coverage of spouses and children after a divorce. No matter how long a couple has been married, if the ex-spouse remarries after the divorce, or enrolls in any employer-sponsored health plan, coverage automatically terminates and can never be reinstated.
A family law attorney can provide details as to what to expect from TRICARE coverage during a divorce. As an overview, under the following situations, as long as former spouses remain unmarried and not covered as employees under any other health plan, they are eligible for full, partial or temporary coverage.
Eligibility for full coverage: 20-20-20 rule
- The spouses were married to the same service member for 20 years.
- At least 20 years of the marriage were during the time the qualifying spouse was a member of the armed forces.
- Eligibility continues until the ex-spouse of the military member remarries.
Eligibility for partial coverage: 20-20-15 rule
- The spouses were married for at least 20 years.
- The military spouse was a member of the armed services for 20 years.
- 15 years of the marriage were during a time the spouse was a member of the military.
If these criteria are met, full coverage continues for one year after the divorce and then partial coverage benefits take over.
Eligibility for temporary coverage.
Former military spouses who do not meet the criteria for full or partial coverage are entitled to temporary benefits under TRICARE according to a Continued Health Care Benefit Program (CHBPC). The former spouse will have to pay a premium while transitioning to another health care plan. Benefits are available for up to 36 months. Applications for CHCBP must be made within 60 days of the date of the divorce.
TRICARE coverage for children.
As long as the military member remains eligible for TRICARE coverage, children under the age of 21 will also be covered even after the divorce. Coverage for children may be extended to age 23 as long as the child is enrolled full-time in a college program.
Step children of the military member are covered as long as the marriage to their parent lasts. If the parents divorce, TRICARE coverage for the stepchildren of the military spouse is terminated as of the date of the divorce. If the military member adopted the stepchildren, they are treated as natural children and coverage will continue the same as for biological children. If you are currently covered under TRICARE and in the process of divorce, you should seek the assistance of a family law attorney.