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Will a Divorce Hurt His Military Career?

I wish every military couple would drive straight to Happily Ever Afterville. No stops. No detours. No broken down marriages left by the side of the road.

After all we go through together, I want us to keep on going until we reach the promised land.

That’s pretty naïve. Our military divorce rate is just about the same as the civilian divorce rate. Just like civilian couples lose their way to addiction, abuse or adultery, many military couples do, too. We marry too young. We live separate lives. We reach the point of no return.

And then what happens? Is there an added cost to divorce in a military marriage? Is there a secret penalty for military members filing for divorce when it comes to the promotion board?

Last week, Tara, a military spouse, contacted SpouseBuzz seeking “the unofficial answer” about the military and divorce.  At promotion time, the military is not supposed to keep tabs on which folks are single and which ones are divorced and which ones have same sex partners and which ones are married to Our Lady of the FRG. But do they?

After her husband’s drinking led to a DUI, Tara just couldn’t see exposing her children to his addiction anymore. She wrote:

 We’ve talked about divorce a couple of times and he’s talked me out of it stating that it would ruin his career (he’s up for a promotion to E9 soon). Is it true that the army could kick him out or take away his rank? I certainly don’t want his career ruined, but I need to protect myself and my children. Any advice?

When it comes to the military and divorce, our best advice is always to go talk to a divorce attorney who has a lot of experience with military divorce. Get a therapist who can help you logically sort through all your options so that you and your partner can make the best decisions possible for yourselves and your children.

But that isn’t really what Tara asked. She wants to know if a divorce is going to keep her servicemember from getting promoted. That is a much trickier question, isn’t it?

I’ve seen some horrific divorces in the military. I’ve seen servicemembers behave shamefully to their ex-wives and children and still make the next promotion. And the next. And the next.

So my first thought is that the divorce won’t hurt the servicemember’s career. My second thought is that the uncontrollable drinking problem will. The DUI will. The year of reduced productivity that men can experience following a divorce will.

Still, I wonder:  Is divorce a normal part of American life that the military accepts and accommodates? Or are there certain segments of the military in which a divorce really is frowned upon? Are some branches less tolerant of divorce than others?

Then there is the underlying question Tara never really asks: Is that loss of a career a reason to stay together? What do you think, Readers?

About Jacey Eckhart

Jacey Eckhart is the Director of Spouse and Family Programs for Military.com. Since 1996, Eckhart’s take on military families has been featured in her syndicated column, her book The Homefront Club, and her award winning CDs These Boots and I Married a Spartan?? Most recently she has been featured as a military family subject matter expert on NBC Dateline, CBS morning news, CNN, NPR and the New York Times. Eckhart is an Air Force brat, a Navy wife and an Army mom.