Understanding TRICARE Coverage Duration After Divorce: Key Rules

by | Tricare | 1 comment

Navigating life after divorce can be complex, especially when it comes to understanding how your healthcare coverage is affected. If you’re a military spouse, you might be wondering about your TRICARE benefits post-divorce. It’s a valid concern, given the crucial role healthcare plays in our lives.

Fortunately, there are clear guidelines about how long you can retain TRICARE coverage after a divorce. This coverage is pivotal in ensuring you have access to healthcare services during this transitional period. Knowing the specifics can help you plan your next steps and ensure you and your family’s health needs continue to be met. Let’s dive into the essentials of TRICARE coverage after divorce, giving you the clarity and confidence to move forward.

Understanding Tricare Benefits and Divorce

Navigating healthcare after a divorce can be complex, especially for military families. TRICARE, as a critical health insurance provider for military personnel, their families, and retirees, has specific rules regarding eligibility post-divorce. Understanding these rules is essential for maintaining access to healthcare services without interruption.

Eligibility Criteria Post-Divorce

When a divorce occurs, the non-military spouse’s eligibility for TRICARE benefits changes, but does not necessarily end immediately. Your continued coverage depends on several factors, including the length of the marriage, the duration of the military service, and the overlap between these two periods. Specifically, the 20/20/20 and 20/20/15 rules play a significant role in determining whether you can retain TRICARE benefits post-divorce.

  • 20/20/20 Rule: If your marriage lasted at least 20 years, the military service member served at least 20 years, and the marriage and the military service overlapped by at least 20 years, you might retain your TRICARE benefits as if you were still married.
  • 20/20/15 Rule: If the marriage lasted 20 years, the military service spanned 20 years, and there was at least a 15-year overlap, limited TRICARE benefits may be available for a transitional period of one year post-divorce.

Steps to Retain Coverage

If you qualify under one of the above criteria, there are specific steps you need to take to ensure your coverage continues:

  1. Update DEERS: Ensure your information is updated in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS) promptly post-divorce. This includes submitting documents such as the divorce decree and any name change documents.
  2. Understand Your Benefits: Familiarize yourself with the type of coverage you’re eligible for, whether it’s full benefits under the 20/20/20 rule or the transitional coverage under the 20/20/15 rule.

Impact on Dependent Children

Children’s eligibility for TRICARE benefits is not directly impacted by divorce. As long as they remain eligible dependents of the military service member, they retain their TRICARE coverage.

Understanding these key aspects of TRICARE benefits post-divorce ensures you can navigate this transition more smoothly. Staying informed helps in making necessary adjustments to maintain your and your family’s health coverage during this pivotal time.

Key Regulations Governing Tricare After Divorce

Navigating the transition in healthcare coverage after a divorce involves understanding the vital regulations set by TRICARE. These regulations ensure that former military spouses either retain or lose access to healthcare services, depending on specific eligibility criteria. Central to these regulations are the 20/20/20 and 20/20/15 rules, which delineate the conditions under which continued coverage is possible.

  1. 20/20/20 Rule: If you were married to a service member for at least 20 years, the military member has at least 20 years of creditable service towards retirement, and there’s an overlap of at least 20 years between the marriage and the military service, you qualify for continued TRICARE coverage as if you were still married. Under this rule, you maintain the same level of benefits without any time restrictions, provided you do not remarry or obtain employer-sponsored healthcare insurance.
  2. 20/20/15 Rule: This rule applies when the marriage lasted at least 20 years, the service member has 20 years of creditable service, but the overlap between the marriage duration and the service time is between 15 to 20 years. Eligibility under the 20/20/15 rule provides you with TRICARE coverage for a transitional period of 12 months following the divorce. Similar to the 20/20/20 rule, eligibility ceases if you remarry or enroll in an employer-sponsored health plan.
  3. Dependent Children: For children of the divorced couple, TRICARE eligibility remains unaffected by the divorce. Children retain their TRICARE coverage until they reach the age limit or lose eligibility through other means, such as marriage.
  4. Updating DEERS: Post-divorce, it’s critical to update the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS) with your divorce decree and other relevant documents. Failure to update DEERS may result in loss of TRICARE benefits for both the former spouse and dependent children.

These regulations serve as a guidepost for navigating post-divorce healthcare coverage. Understanding your status in relation to the 20/20/20 and 20/20/15 rules, along with timely updates to DEERS, ensures you and your family’s continued access to healthcare services.

Maintaining Tricare Coverage Post-Divorce

Navigating the complexities of TRICARE coverage after a divorce requires a clear understanding of the criteria and steps involved. Given the brief on the 20/20/20 and 20/20/15 rules in the previous section, it’s imperative to highlight the actions necessary to maintain TRICARE benefits or transition appropriately.

Updating DEERS Information

Ensuring your DEERS information is current stands as the most crucial step. This process involves:

  • Providing the Defense Manpower Data Center (DMDC) with a copy of the divorce decree.
  • Showing proof of service of the military member, such as the DD214 form, if not already on file.
  • Updating any change in address or contact information.

Failure to update DEERS might result in a lapse in coverage or denial of claims, emphasizing the necessity of prompt action.

Meeting Eligibility Criteria

Understanding whether you meet the 20/20/20 or 20/20/15 rule is essential for maintaining coverage. Remember, meeting these criteria allows for continuous coverage or, for the latter, transitional coverage of 12 months post-divorce. Here’s a quick recap:

  • 20/20/20: Requires 20 years of marriage, 20 years of military service, and a 20-year overlap.
  • 20/20/15: Demands 20 years of marriage, 20 years of service, but only 15 years of overlap.

Applying for TRICARE

Upon confirming eligibility:

  • Contact TRICARE to notify them of your divorce.
  • Complete any required forms for enrollment or benefit transition.

Monitoring Coverage Status

After updating DEERS and contacting TRICARE, regularly:

  • Check your TRICARE eligibility status online.
  • Monitor any correspondence from TRICARE for updates or required actions.

Children’s TRICARE Coverage

Remember, your children’s eligibility remains intact post-divorce. Ensure their DEERS records are current, reflecting custody arrangements to avoid any issues with access to care.

By following these steps and keeping abreast of TRICARE’s policies, you can navigate the post-divorce transition smoothly, ensuring continuous healthcare coverage for yourself and your dependents.

Impact on Children’s Tricare Benefits

Children’s TRICARE benefits remain constant regardless of a divorce. This stability ensures that children of military personnel continue to receive comprehensive healthcare without interruption. Here’s what you need to understand about your children’s coverage in such situations.

Maintaining your children’s eligibility in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS) is paramount. Keep their records updated to guarantee uninterrupted healthcare services. Regardless of which parent maintains primary custody post-divorce, children are entitled to TRICARE benefits until they reach the age of 21, or 23 if enrolled in college full-time, provided they are not married. Sponsorship can come from either the service member or the former spouse, depending on who is eligible.

In situations where the service member is the non-custodial parent, it’s crucial to ensure the custodial parent has all necessary information to access healthcare services for the children. This includes having the service member’s Social Security number and a valid military ID for the children.

TRICARE offers several healthcare plans suitable for children, such as TRICARE Prime, TRICARE Select, and others, allowing for flexibility based on where you live and your specific healthcare needs. Keep in mind, eligibility criteria and specific plan details may change, so staying informed through the official TRICARE website or a benefits counselor is advised.

It’s essential to know that in case of remarriage, the stepchildren of the service member are also eligible for TRICARE as long as the marriage remains valid. This addition to the family does not affect the biological children’s status or eligibility for TRICARE benefits.

By ensuring DEERS records are up-to-date and understanding the intricacies of TRICARE coverage, you can provide your children with stable healthcare benefits during and after the transition of a divorce.

Navigating Changes in Tricare Policies

Navigating changes in TRICARE policies post-divorce requires attention to detail and a clear understanding of eligibility requirements and deadlines. For former military spouses, retaining TRICARE benefits hinges on specific conditions set forth by the 20/20/20 and 20/20/15 rules. Under the 20/20/20 rule, you maintain eligibility if your marriage lasted 20 years, the service member completed 20 years of creditable service toward retirement, and there was a 20-year overlap. With the 20/20/15 rule, the requirements are similar but with a 15-year overlap instead, offering one year of continued coverage.

Updating your Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS) records is pivotal for accessing healthcare services without interruption. The process is straightforward but requires documentation proving the divorce, such as a final decree. For those not meeting the 20/20/20 or 20/20/15 criteria, exploring alternate healthcare options becomes necessary. The Continued Health Care Benefit Program (CHCBP) serves as a bridge, offering temporary coverage for up to 36 months post-divorce, provided enrollment within 60 days after TRICARE or other qualifying coverage ends.

For the children of divorced military members, coverage continues unaffected. Ensuring their DEERS records are up-to-date is essential, as it enables uninterrupted access to healthcare services. Children remain eligible until age 21, or 23 if enrolled full-time in an accredited college or university. In certain cases, eligibility can extend beyond these age limits if the child is incapable of self-support due to a condition that occurred before the age cutoff.

It’s important to stay informed about TRICARE policy updates, especially following significant life changes like divorce, to maintain continuous healthcare coverage. Whether it’s adhering to eligibility rules, updating DEERS records, or transitioning to alternative healthcare programs, understanding these aspects ensures you and your family retain access to necessary medical services.


Navigating healthcare after a divorce can be complex, especially for military families. Remember, staying informed and promptly updating your DEERS information is key to ensuring you don’t face any interruptions in your TRICARE coverage. If you’re not eligible under the 20/20/20 or 20/20/15 rules, don’t worry. Options like the CHCBP are available to bridge the gap until you find a long-term solution. Your children’s coverage remains secure, providing some peace of mind during this transition. By keeping abreast of TRICARE policies and understanding your eligibility, you can maintain the healthcare coverage you need post-divorce.



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