Virginia 20/20/15 Military Spouse

Posted on Jun 26, 2023 by Katie Carter

Sometimes I think that the military loves mystery.  That has to be the reason for all those annoying acronyms, right?  TSP, BAH, PCS, LES – is it just fun for them?  And then, rather than trying to explain to someone who might not know what they’re talking about, they just mix in the acronyms to their regular conversation, and leave their civilian friends bewildered.  “But what does it mean?!”

To be fair, though, I think a lot of times the spouses don’t entirely know.  They just accept what they’re told, and, anyway, its not like the military is forthcoming.  It’s not like they explain to the spouses what their rights and entitlements are!  No, actually, quite the opposite: I find they tend to obfuscate.  It’s why there’s still so much power behind the 10 year myth; because women actually STILL believe it to be true!  It’s crazy to me.

One of the things that is surrounded in mystery is, in my experience, the designations for 20/20/20 and 20/20/15 spouses.  I’ve written already about 20/20/20 spouses and what it takes to qualify, but there’s also the lesser designation of 20/20/15.

What is 20/20/15?

A 20/20/15 spouse is one where (1) the parties were married for AT LEAST 20 years, (2) the spouse was on active duty military service for AT LEAST 20 years, and (3) AT LEAST 15 of those years overlapped.

For a 20/20/20 spouse, at least 20 of the years of marriage and military service overlapped – that’s the main difference.

Let’s look at an example.

Carla married Steven in 2000.  Steven had joined the Marines in 1995.  He retired after 20 years of service in 2015.  Carla and Steven separated and divorce in 2023.  Carla and Steven were married for 23 years.  Steven was in the military for 20 years.  But only 15 of those years overlapped – so Carla is a 20/20/15 spouse.

Meghan married William in 2000.  William had joined the Navy in 1995.  Meghan and William separated and divorced in 2015.  This is a perfect example of a 20/20/15 spouse – unless Meghan and William’s divorce was finalized BEFORE their anniversary in 2015.  If she doesn’t meet the full 15 year requirement, she won’t qualify as 20/20/15.  In this case, there’s no consolation prize either – you either qualify, or you don’t.  And if you don’t, you get nothing.

Another example?  Sure.

Heather married Carl in 2020.  Carl joined the Army in 2000, and has not retired.  Heather and Carl separated and divorced in 2023.  Heather is not a 20/20/15 spouse; their marriage lasted only 3 years, despite Carl having 20 years in the military.


Margot married Eddie in 2005.  Eddie joined the military in 1990 and retired in 2010.  Margot won’t separate from Eddie until 2030 – I’m omniscient, didn’t you know?  Margot won’t be a 20/20/15 spouse, because, even though her marriage lasted more than 20 years and Eddie’s military service was more than 20 years, only 5 years overlap.

The key here is that somewhere between AT LEAST 15 years and 19 years and 364 days overlapped with the spouse’s active duty military service.  If at least 15 years didn’t overlap, then there’s no 20/20/15 status.

Another key point is that we’re looking at date of marriage until date of divorce, not the date of separation.  It does sometimes happen that the parties will separate and negotiate a separation agreement, but then wait until the spouse meets the 20/20/15 or 20/20/20 designation before finalizing.

If he has already retired or you’re already divorced, though, there’s nothing you can do – it stops the clock from running.

What is 20/20/15 and why does it matter?

Well, 20/20/15 isn’t as good as 20/20/20, but it does have one key benefit.  Rather than having no health insurance upon entry of the Final Divorce Decree, if you’re a 20/20/15 spouse, you can keep your TriCare coverage for one year.

That’s it.  Yup – after at least 20 years of marriage, that’s all you get – from the military at least.  (Except, of course, where your interest in his pension and TSP are concerned, as well as spousal and/or child support and any other benefits.)

Like I said – it’s not as good as 20/20/20.  But take heart: if you’re not yet divorced or he’s not yet retired, you COULD theoretically agree to separate until you make the 20/20/20 designation.  After all, receiving 20/20/20 status costs your ex exactly $0.

But maybe it’s too long to wait.  Maybe he’s already retired.  Maybe he won’t agree, and maybe you can’t stand to be married that much longer.  It may not be possible to keep things going until you reach that designation, and that’s okay, too.  Sure, it’d be better if you could get 20/20/20 status (or, at the very least, 20/20/15 status), but, after all, civilians divorce every single day and get no additional healthcare coverage.

Some things about divorce are really tough and, in my opinion, healthcare coverage is one of those things.

For more information about military divorce, to request a consultation with a family law attorney dedicated to representing women exclusively and knowledgeable about military divorce, or to sign up for an upcoming seminar, visit our website at or give us a call at 757-425-5200.