Impact of Military Service on Divorce

  • Military members can face marital problems, due to their service.
  • Data suggests that military members are no more likely to divorce than non-military members.
  • Risks include marital fraud, damaged Survivor Benefits Plan

"A study of U.S. soldiers' marriages suggest that combat exposure, alcohol misuse, mental health problem, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, military sexual trauma, or extreme anxiety about physical symptoms that interfere with their daily lives, create a negative impact on the marital health of armed servicemen."

Military service can often create problems within a married relationship, lending itself vulnerable to divorce. The majority of members of the armed forces are married, and these marriages have a direct effect on military performance and retention, according to reports published by the National Defense Research Institute in 2007. This data suggests that military stress can often lend itself to a decrease in the quality of marriage.

study of U.S. soldiers’ marriages suggest that combat exposure, alcohol misuse, mental health problems, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, military sexual trauma, or extreme anxiety about physical symptoms that interfere with their daily lives, create a negative impact on the marital health of armed servicemen. The subjects of the research did not experience mental health problems previous to the study.

The study defined quality of marriage as a description of how well the marriage functions and includes concepts of marital satisfaction and marital happiness. This study also examined trends of infidelity and separation/divorce among the subjects, who were married, male, and deployed to either Iraq or Afghanistan.

Data talks

However, researchers at the U.S. Army Research Institute for Behavioral and Social Sciences also have suggested that couples engaged in military service are not more likely to divorce than couples without military service.

Much of the misconception regarding high divorce rates among members of the military stem from U.S. Army fiscal reports from 2004 that were disproportionately high for males and females. During that year, the estimates for members of the Army as a whole appear elevated, despite no comparable elevations among enlisted members.

Research of the U.S. Army by the Defense Manpower Data Center has shown a decrease in divorce rates decline during fiscal 2015; from 7.3 to 6.9 percent among active-duty female members and from 3.2 to 2.6 percent among active-duty male members. However, the rate for the Army Reserve divorce rates rose from 3.4 to 4.9 percent, with a rise from 5.2 to 6.5 percent with female members and from 3 to 4.6 percent for male members.

There’s also evidence to suggest that service members could be alerted to the record keeping and wait to dissolve the union through separation or divorce until after their military service is completed. Alternatively, recruits from high risk populations are provided incentive for marriage. Marrying young and having children creates the dependents that the military rewards through allowance financing, leaving military marriages vulnerable to fraud and eventual divorce.

Slippery slope

Due to the incentive nature of Basic Housing Allowances (BAH) and how it increases depending on the number of dependents a member of the military is obligated to, as well as the prospects of green card marriage fraud, it stands to reason that fraud is a concern among those enlisted. However, the bigger worry that members of the military have to defend against during their divorce is the prospect of Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) coverage.

In the case of a military retiree’s death, an SBP is an insurance plan that pays a surviving spouse a monthly payment or annuity to help make up for the loss of retirement income. Not protecting the SBP also allows for the pension to become vulnerable.

Former spouse coverage in an SBP costs 6.5 percent of the selected base amount in active-duty cases. For members of the Reserve, it is approximately 10 percent.

During divorce proceedings, if SBP is not addressed, then it will be lost, according to the American Bar Association. Divorce terminates SBP coverage, unless specified otherwise, and if it is addressed in the divorce, then the military member’s best course of action would be to get a value of an SBP as an asset. 

Through a scan of data and strategies, military divorce can seem like a scary pitfall, where the compensation of a member’s service is being threatened and the prospect of normalcy seems distant. These descriptions and statistics are designed to inform what avenues of coping and risk to avoid, so that the member’s divorce does not devolve, straying from his disciplined and professional outlook.

End of Content Icon

Leave a Reply