Women in the military face greater risk of divorce

Divorce rates are higher for active duty military, especially for women. Is there any way to address this significant problem?

The divorce rate for women in the military has increased from its already high rate. Photo: Military.com

SAN DIEGO, May 15, 2017 – Individuals who serve in the military make many sacrifices while serving our country. Maintaining healthy relationships include marriage can be among them.

The Pentagon’s Defense Manpower Data Center tracks marriages among military personnel and it also calculates the rate of divorce. The information is managed and compiled by the Defense Manpower Data Center.

The military divorce rate reached its lowest rate in 2015, but the good news ended for female service members in 2016. About 2.6 percent of married male troops divorced last year, marking no change to the rate since 2013, while the rate among female service members slightly climbed from 6.2 percent in 2015 to 6.6 percent in 2016.

Compare this to the overall civilian divorce rate of 3.1 percent in 2016, which was just slightly up from 3.0 percent in 2015.

Celebrity divorces provie models of both the good ways and the bad ways to get a divorce, especially if children are involved. Myra Fleischer, San Diego Family Law Attorney
Military researchers are stumped on the best ways to lower the rate of divorce among women in the military.

The divorce rate for male and female troops has always been different, so military researchers calculate them separately. The largest changes came among female enlisted troops, who have traditionally shown rates more than double that of their male counterparts. Just 2.8 percent of male enlisted soldiers divorced over 2016, compared to eight percent of female enlisted soldiers – three times as many.

The only branch of the military to experience a similar increase in divorce for both men and women was the U.S. Marine Corps. The rate jumped from 2.3 percent to 2.8 percent for men; 6.4 percent to 7.7. percent among women.

The numbers are a little misleading because the way individual states calculate divorce rates and the national divorce rates aren’t measured the same way. Still, when the rate jumps from previous measurements calculated the same way, it bears examination.

When one or both spouses are members of the military, they know they are in for long separations and unique stress factors. They know they must accept them as part of the package. Longer deployments do increase the divorce rate. So do deployments where members see combat, or engage in using weapons, such as in Iraq or Afghanistan.

There are undeniable stressors on military families that negatively affect marriages. Photo: Courtesy Military.org

Whatever the cause, it is the resulting stress and how it is dealt with that determines the impact on the marriage. Military couples face unique sources of stress, including:

  • Struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, or general anxiety problems.
  • Caregiving challenges and adjustments if a servicemember is injured
  • Feelings of isolation or resentment on the part of spouse at home
  • Infidelity related to long separations
  • The emotional roller coaster created by ups and downs related to deployment

Military couples need to be especially alert to the impact of stress on their marriage, military women in particular. They need to be aggressive seeking out ways to try and reduce these stresses.

Among the tactics military counselors recommend:

  • All military branches offer specific support programs for couples and families, including classes and retreats. Couples should take advantage of them, even if you think you don’t need them.
  • Work on ways to maintain your connection when apart, using tools like care packages, journal exchanges, and sharing memories and future goals. Technology can play a big role with Skype or Facetime chats and social media access.
  • Reach out to friends and family along with military programs for support. There are military spouse support groups which make connections with others going through the same thing.
  • Spouses should become educated about how deployments work and prepare for the impact and reactions to the various stages to better understand what’s happening.

One of the best resources online is The National Military Family Association. Its motto: “Together, we’re stronger.”

If divorce is inevitable, there are different laws governing military divorce. Unlike civilian divorce, both state and federal laws apply. It is critically important to work with family law attorneys knowledgeable about these laws. My website offers more information to get you started.

Military families make tremendous sacrifices. Sometimes this includes their marriages. Photo: Courtesy Military.org

Military families are unique and make tremendous sacrifices on behalf of their loved ones in uniform. Strong relationships are important to our readiness, and the Defense Department provides a wide range of support for our troops and their family members,” Army Lt. Col. Myles Caggins, a Pentagon spokesman, said in a statement. “At times, the military life brings the joys of promotions, stress of deployments, and adventure of travel; along each step of the journey, military family members are a bedrock of support and encouragement. We value them.”

Myra Chack Fleischer serves as Lead Counsel for Fleischer & Ravreby in Carlsbad, California with a focus on divorce, property, custody and support, settlement agreements, mediation, asset division and family law appeals. Read more Legally Speaking in Communities Digital News. Follow Myra on Twitter: @LawyerMyra. Fleischer can be reached via Google +

Copyright © 2017 by Fleischer & Ravreby


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