Will a Divorce Hurt His Military Career?

just divorced

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 the Author

Jacey Eckhart
Jacey Eckhart is the former 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. Find her at JaceyEckhart.net.

8 Comments on "Will a Divorce Hurt His Military Career?"

  1. sabrinacking | April 22, 2013 at 2:36 pm |

    I think it's the wrong question. How about we start with this one: why is he drinking to the extent he got a DUI?

  2. TheotherMel | April 22, 2013 at 3:19 pm |

    I personally think he's trying to guilt her into staying. It is NOT going to ruin his career. The like the poster above, the real questions should be this: How come the DUI didn't ruin his career? If ANYTHING would ruin a career, it would be a DUI and not getting a divorce. I hope he doesn't lay that guilt trip on her … "It's all your fault, etc." Oh heck no!

  3. If things are so bad your considering divorce, is his career REALLY the thing to be concerned about? What about your kids well being? Your own mental health?

    Or, is another conisideration spousal/child support and thats where the concern stems from? (Not trying to be snarky, its a legit concern if you have been a SAHM for years with no work experience)

  4. I think besides the DUI and drinking causing issues with him getting promotion (and marriage), a bigger problem for him at the rank of E-8 is that he will likely have a secret clearance that he will lose because of the drinking and that along with the drinking will have a greater impact on his promotion. The divorce is is the result of a bigger problem. The wife should be more concerned for her and her kids safety as she has already mentioned. I would think before he worries about promotion for himself, he needs to work on his issues first.

  5. If she still cares about his life and his career, the relationship isn't over. At least it isn't over for her. Perhaps, what they need is marriage counselling for the couple and one-on-one counselling for him (perhaps coupled with Addicts Anonymous).

  6. “Our Lady of the FRG” ….what a joke. My husband was caught having an intense affair with his unit’s FRG cow, er, I mean, leader. Supporting families… blah, blah, blah… It’s getting both of them divorces and going to ruin his career.

  7. Tara,
    I believe that if you are unhappy and that your children are witnessing an addiction, and your loyalty is for the children, then you should do what your head is telling you. The time to walk out on someone is NOT when they are suffering with the intension of getting help. Addiction, is horrible for the ones going through it as well as the ones suffering because of it. The question whether or not a service members career would be damaging in lieu of a divorce is NO, unless the member's work performance suffers because of it. The abuse of alcohol would be the damaging part not the divorce itself. I suggest talking with legal council and/or a psychologist before pursuing anything along with seeking help for your spouse. I do believe that it is the responsibility of both parents to insure the wellbeing of their children. if one is being irresponsible, the other has tuff choices to make. I wish you well with the decisions that you are forced to make.

  8. I know several service members who were senior enlisteds, got divorced and it didn't appear to ruin their careers at all. And sone them had drinking problems as well.

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