One of the most valuable benefits that military spouses have is their access to health care benefits (TRICARE) and the Post Exchange and commissary provided by the government. When a couple splits, however, the dependent spouse is often confused about their right to continue using these benefits.

Here’s the bad news: Very few divorced spouses of military personnel qualify to keep those benefits. To do so, your marriage must have lasted at least 20 years, your spouse must have been in the military for at least 20 years and your marriage and the military member’s service period must have overlapped for at least 20 years.

That’s called the “20/20/20 rule.” If you happen to fall into that narrow slot, you will retain your entitlement to use the Post Exchange and commissary and remain on TRICARE indefinitely after your divorce — as long as you don’t remarry or get another kind of insurance.

Here’s the good news: You do not lose these benefits during any period of separation from your spouse. You can keep those benefits until your divorce is final. You may also be due financial support if your spouse receives a basic housing allowance. That may give you an important opportunity to find your financial footing and look for other benefits.

In addition, if you have minor children, those children will continue to have full military benefits, including TRICARE coverage, until they marry or turn 22 years of age.

Divorce is always difficult, but going through a military divorce presents additional complications. Find out how an experienced attorney can help you understand and protect your rights.