From tour of duty to divorce: Long deployments take a toll on military marriages
(HARTFORD, CT)- June 27, 2014– As we prepare to celebrate our nation’s independence, we are reminded of the sacrifices so many in the military make to protect our freedoms. Those who serve put both their lives and their marriages in peril. A study by the RAND Corporation, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Defense, found that long deployments from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have increased the risk of divorce. In 2011, a USA Today study also found that the military divorce rate was at the highest level since 1999, and according to the Department of Defense, it has been rising steadily for the past ten years.
Most divorces are accompanied by varying stresses, both financial and emotional. In CT, an organization called Connecticut Collaborative Divorce Group CCDG) is a resource available to guide families through the process. CCDG is made up of attorneys, financial and mental health professionals who work together to ensure the divorce process goes as smoothly as possible. This system seeks to provide couples support on every level.
Factors contributing to the increase in military divorces include depression, anxiety and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The special problems faced by military families and exacerbated by deployment can better be handled collaboratively,” said CCDG member Attorney Robert Fried. “We all have read articles about the military member with PTSD and/or alcohol issues. But it is important to remember that anyone who serves in a combat zone is scarred by the experience.”
A former JAG himself, Attorney Robert Fried recently represented a divorcing military member who developed PTSD and alcohol issues following an incident with an improvised explosive device (IED). Ultimately, this became the reason the marriage ended.
“Emotionally, the military member who leaves the U.S. returns as a different person. And we cannot forget the family in CT who is dealing with their own trauma, wondering daily whether or not, the military member would return,” he said. “Collaboratively, we work to reduce the tension and emotional trauma that often occurs in litigation. The CCDG professionals are here to help the family reach results that work best for everyone in the family.”
Other factors to consider in a military divorce include the spouse’s rights to military benefits and compensation. It is important to understand the compensation package. Certain benefits are not taxed and therefore represent “net” pay. This includes various housing and subsistence allowance — there may also be additional non-tax income for a member who has been mobilized for overseas duty.
Individuals who serve in the military must also abide by strict guidelines mandated by the US government. For instance, it is a violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice and other regulations if a military member fails to help support his family. At the time of Dissolution of Marriage, a CT judge has the same powers and authority to enter equitable orders as in any other divorce. This could include alimony, child support, health insurance, life insurance, tax issues and property division.
Attorney Fried notes that the government does give special consideration when both parties serve in the military.
“At the commencement of each collaborative divorce, we ask the parties what are their general goals. In almost all cases, the primary concerns are the children and to minimize the effect of the divorce on the children. The military is also concerned about the children, is very reticent about deploying both spouses and wants to know that there are plans in place for the children’s care should a parent be deployed,” adds Attorney Fried.
The bottom line is that military divorce includes many complexities. CCDG is an exceptional resource to help military families navigate the process while striving to keep stress to a minimum.
CCDG is a group of experienced divorce professionals, including divorce and family lawyers, financial and mental health professionals who have been specifically trained in the collaborative process. Each member of the group has made a commitment to the goals of collaborative practice in order to help people achieve fair and lasting settlements without using the court or even the threat of court. Additionally, each member attends regular meetings and training sessions designed to develop and enhance their collaborative divorce skills.