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How Divorce Affects Your TRICARE Benefits > TRICARE Newsroom > Articles


The divorce process can create intense emotions. You might feel frustrated or confused during this time. Thinking about your TRICARE benefits may be the last thought on your mind. However, it is something you need to consider.

“TRICARE will not pay for services or supplies provided to anyone who is not eligible for TRICARE, so it is important that you understand how your TRICARE coverage may change for you, your children and your ex-spouse,” said Shane Pham, TRICARE policy and program analyst at the Defense Health Agency. “If an ex-spouse or unadopted son-in-law loses eligibility for a divorce and continues to receive care, TRICARE can claw back those payments, adding an extra layer of difficulty during an already difficult time. .”

Read the following questions and answers to learn more about how divorce affects your TRICARE health benefits.

Q: How does divorce affect the sponsor?
A: Eligibility for TRICARE does not change for the sponsor. Once your divorce is final, you must update your information in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS). To update DEERS, bring a certified copy of the decree of divorce or annulment to your local ID office.

Divorce or annulment is a TRICARE Qualifying Life Event (QLE). As indicated in the TRICARE Eligible Life Events Fact Sheet, a QLE is a significant life change, such as a move, marriage, birth of a child, or retirement from active duty. With these changes, your TRICARE health plan options for you and your family may also change. Because divorce is a QLE, the sponsor and eligible children (biological or legally adopted) have 90 days after a divorce to make eligible enrollment changes.

Q: How does divorce affect the sponsor’s ex-spouse?
A: If you are an ex-spouse, you may remain eligible for TRICARE coverage if you meet certain criteria. These include the status of the sponsor, the length of the marriage, and other factors, as outlined in the 20-20-20 and 20-20-15 rules. Each rule has three elements, and you must follow all three to access the same benefits as your military spouse.

According to the 20-20-20 rule:

  • Your sponsor must have at least 20 years of military service creditable toward retirement pay.
  • You must be married to the same service member for at least 20 years.
  • Marriage and spouse’s military service must overlap for at least 20 years.

According to the 20-20-15 rule:

  • Your sponsor must have at least 20 years of military service creditable toward retirement pay.
  • You must be married to the same service member for at least 20 years.
  • Marriage and spouse’s military service must overlap for at least 15 years.

Q: What happens if an ex-spouse remarries?
A: If you remarry, you will lose your eligibility for TRICARE. You will also lose TRICARE benefits if you enroll in an employer-sponsored health plan.

Q: How do eligible ex-spouses continue to receive TRICARE benefits?
A: You will need the following documents to establish your eligibility as an unmarried ex-spouse:

If you meet the eligibility requirements, DEERS will reflect your eligibility for TRICARE using your own Social Security number or Department of Defense benefit number (not your former sponsor’s). When you qualify for TRICARE as a former spouse, you receive the same benefits as a retired family member. Your TRICARE health plan options depend on where you live.

Q: What are the options for ex-spouses who do not meet the eligibility criteria?
A: Your benefits will end at 12:01 a.m. on the day of the divorce. If the godfather has not adopted his stepchildren, they will also lose their eligibility once the divorce is final. Some options if you lose TRICARE eligibility include:

  • You can purchase coverage from the Continuing Health Care Benefits Program (CHCBP). If you qualify for CHCBP, you must purchase coverage within 60 days of losing TRICARE coverage. Certain ex-spouses who did not remarry before age 55 may be eligible for unlimited duration of coverage.
  • You can get coverage through your employer.

Do you have more questions about how TRICARE works after a divorce? You can go to TRICARE’s Get a Divorce or Annulment page. If you have questions about TRICARE eligibility, be sure to contact the Defense Workforce Data Center Help Desk.

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