Men and women serving in the armed forces of our country encounter many stresses within their marriages that men and women in the general public do not experience. Long separations from marriage partners and other family members and hardships experienced due to war conditions in Afghanistan and Iraq play havoc on many military marriages. So, it is somewhat surprising that the divorce rate among men and women serving in the military remained steady last year at 3.3 percent. From October 1, 2006, through October 1, 2007, there were 25,000 failed marriages out of approximately 755,000 married active duty troops. These statistics represent members of all military branches.
According to information provided by the Defense Department, members of the Army had a divorce rate of 3.2 percent, a rate which remains unchanged from the previous year. Of the 275,000 married Army soldiers, that amounts to approximately 8,750 divorces. Comparing all branches of the military, it is the Army which has the largest number of troops serving in Afghanistan and Iraq. More Army couples had to cope with longer separations as many tours of duty were extended from twelve (12) months to fifteen (15) months in duration. This past year was also the deadliest year for our troops serving in the war zones during the present conflict. Multiple tours of duty and longer than usual deployments have been cited as reasons for greater stress on military marriages. Spouses remaining at home must fend for themselves in dealing with family problems and issues. A greater number of suicides and reports of mental health problems have also been reported.
There is a notable exception to the foregoing findings. The divorce rate among active duty women is increasing. Historically, their marriages failed at twice the rate of men in the service. At this time, firm numbers were not available- but it appears that in 2007, eight (8) percent of female soldiers’ marriages ended in divorce compared to just nearly three (3) percent of male soldiers’ marriages ending in divorce.
It must be noted that the foregoing data regarding military divorces is not based upon the actual number of divorces obtained. The information is calculated by taking the number of married troops at the beginning of each budget year and subtracting the number of of married troops at the end of each year. Officials consider this methodology to be valid as this method of calculation has remained the same for many years.
At the present, there is not a comparable system to track the divorce rate of civilians. However, according to the most recent information available, the Centers for Disease Control (“CDC”) reported the divorce rate was 3.6 per one thousand (1000) persons in the general population, for a rate of 3.6 percent in 2005-the most recent statistics available.
Some retired military veterans question the validity of the foregoing divorce statistics and question whether they are truly correct. According to Todd Bowers, a spokesperson of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, the extreme stresses of war are creating an increase in marriage failures among the military, but said failures are not being tracked or counted accurately. Part of the problem in tracking the number of divorces is that many of the military men and women divorce after leaving military service. Todd Bowers remarked- “When you look at their numbers…there is a piece of the puzzle that is missing!” Also, the numbers produced do not include “troubled” marriages that remain intact. In a survey conducted in Iraq in 2006, twenty (20) percent of the military members serving in Iraq indicated that they or their spouses were planning a divorce proceeding as compared to just fifteen (15) percent the previous year.
Paul Boyce, an Army spokesman, counters that the divorce rate is not higher than usual for military families because of the “strong support programs…and a sense of real teamwork among the families.” For example, he reports that Army soldiers returning home receive special training in a program entitled “Battlemind”. This program is designed to teach military men and women how to re-adjust to domestic living and about how to address common problems they can expect to encounter upon returning home and to their families. In the “Strong Bonds” program, Army chaplains actively educate and train active duty members and reservists in building and strengthening personal relationships.
Other branches of the service are also reaching out to military members and their families. The Marines are offering to couples the opportunity to take workshops to teach them how to improve their communication with one another and how to resolve conflicts. The Navy is sponsoring weekend retreats for couples as a way of helping them strengthen and improve relationships. The Army is also funding a program entitled “Family Covenant”– a broad initiative of facilities and services aimed at improving the quality of life for Army families. Some of the goals include improvement of housing, child care facilities, health care services, and base schools in order to reduce stress and strain on the spouses of military men and women.
There is more information about this topic at Forbes Magazine.
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Robert L. Mues
Robert Mues is the managing partner of Dayton, Ohio, law firm, Holzfaster, Cecil, McKnight & Mues, and has received the highest rating from the Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review for Ethical Standards and Legal Ability. Mr. Mues is also a founding member of the "International Academy of Attorneys for Divorce over 50" blog.