The current state of deployment
According to a recent Rand Corporation study for the Department of Defense (DOD) 97% of military divorces occur sometime after deployment and a recent workshop revealed that the DOD reported that 20% of marriages end within 2 years of deployment.
Today most everyone knows someone divorced at least once, and sometimes several times. When I was a kid in the 70’s divorce was almost unheard of – like purple unicorns. Regardless of whether you believe rate are rising or falling, these rates can be even higher among deployed service members defending our country.
The study also shares that members in deployment to hostile areas appeared at greater risk for divorce than those in non-hostile areas and the greater number of cumulative months in deployment equated to higher rates of divorce. Intuitively this makes sense, as communication breakdowns and detachment can frequently occur during this time apart and those returning from deployment can suffer from combat-related trauma that could affect marital relationships as well.
With rising tensions in our world deployments are sure to come. So how can you be prepared?
1 -Have a “deployment” Financial plan in place
One of the leading causes cited for divorce is finances. Money concerns and stress maybe attributable to differences in priorities, family values around money and spending habits. All of which can be amplified during deployment. This is a time that you will more likely earn increased income due, special benefits, entitlements, and tax-free income. Here are just a few items to help to help get you started:
- Set expectations by creating a spending plan to address the extra deployment income and how it will be used
- Ensure you have an emergency fund
- Consider establishing 2nd account for the Service Member’s spending while in deployment separate from the account used to pay bills.
- Ensure payments are on automatic billing or that your spouse knows what gets paid when
- Setup allotments or transfers to a separate account for savings – “Out of sight, out of mind”
- Harness the power of compounding and add to your retirement Thrift savings plan (TSP) for your future – 2018 $55K maximum contribution amount across all retirement accounts during deployment.
2 -Ensure a Family Care Plan is in place that defines ”where you live” and custody
Ensure your plan defines who has and will have custody of children if something were to happen to you or your spouse, as well as where the family “lives”. In military families it is not uncommon for a couple to be from one or multiple states, get married somewhere else, live in a third state , and even own property in some other state.
Where you got married has nothing to do with where you can get divorced. It’s where you actually live, and a spouse can move to another state and establish residency while the Service Member is away. This is important because the divorce guidelines around spousal/child support and property division will be ruled by the state jurisdiction where the divorce is handled (most likely where it was filed). Depending on that state’s laws they may or may not be beneficial to the Service Member and can have long range financial and custodial consequences on the family.
3 -Create a Communication plan
Communication breakdowns are normal, and they can make or break a relationship under even the best non-deployment circumstances.. The successes of military operations don’t just depend on the readiness of the Service Members but on the preparedness of the families – sometimes referred to as “family readiness”. According to the Rand research, marital satisfaction was most diminished with the first deployment so pay attention if you are in this group as this can lead to problems.
Time apart can be a time of risk as couples can grow apart, feel overwhelmed, detached or isolated from their spouse. Be proactive!
- Setup a schedule for calls, facetime chats or skype calls (if the latter are allowed).
- Schedule alone time without the children to connect – to not just discuss frustrations or problems. Try remembering why you got married in the first place and your love for each other.
- Establish expectations and setup a protocol for responding to text messages and emails. In today’s society of instant gratification, many times you will know immediately if your spouse has read a communication. Not responding according to the sending spouses “un-communicated” expectation around how fast or when you will respond can cause hurt and frustration on both sides if this is not discussed ahead of time.
As part of Michelle’s commitment to families, she is a leader for “What Everyone Should know About Divorce” in N Phoenix/N Scottsdale and also supports the West Valley. www.secondsaturdaynphoenix.com
This information is not meant to be construed as financial, tax, or law advice. Always speak with a professional in the applicable area of expertise to address you specific situation and concerns