Divorce Among Military Families and Support Available

Generally speaking, marriages under stress tend to be more likely to end in divorce. Common sense might suggest, therefore, that military couples are more likely to split up than their civilian counterparts - especially during times of active military conflict. Nevertheless, recent research on the effects of military deployment indicates that the reality may not be quite so simple.

Research Yields Unexpected Results

To investigate the effect of military service on divorce rates, researchers from UCLA and RAND Corp reviewed the personnel records of more than half a million married U.S. military service members who served between 2002 and 2005.

Much to the surprise of the researchers themselves, not to mention the public at large, deployment actually appeared to lower the risk of divorce for military couples. With the exception of active duty officers and air force personnel, longer periods of deployment were associated with greater marital stability in all sectors.

Researchers speculated that this might be due in part to the additional support that military families receive in areas like child care, health care and housing assistance, which may help offset the stress of deployment.

There is no disputing the fact, however, that military deployment can put great strain on marriages, and divorce among military couples remains a common occurrence. In the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, military deployments have been longer and more frequent than at any time since the Vietnam War. Military families are subjected to burdens that others are not, and many marriages crumble beneath their weight.

Support Services Available for Military Families

Financial worries are one of the most common sources of marital strife in any family, and military service is likely to compound the issue. Fortunately, there are a number of support services available to help provide relief for military families who are having difficulty making ends meet. The Soldiers' and Sailors' Civil Relief Act (SSCRA) contains special provisions to help protect service members called to active duty.

Debt Relief

Under the SSCRA, active service members can qualify for reduced interest rates on mortgages, credit cards, car loans and other debts. The law limits the amount of interest that can be collected on these debts to a maximum of six percent per year during periods of active military service.

The SSCRA interest rate reduction applies to most debts incurred prior to commencement of active service, with the exception of federally secured student loans. The reduction is not applied automatically, however, so service members must specifically request it. The creditor can either grant the request or attempt to prove that the requesting party's military service has not affected his or her ability to pay.

Even though the interest rate cap does not apply to federally secured student loan debt, service members who are having difficulty making payments on their student loans may be eligible to defer or suspend payments while on active duty by contacting their schools or lenders.

Eviction Prevention

Another important aspect of the SSCRA is a provision that protects the dependents of active service members from being evicted from their homes during periods of active duty. This provision is meant to protect families who are unable to pay the rent because their financial circumstances have been affected by a family member's service in the military.

If you rent house or apartment for $1,200 or less per month and your family is threatened with eviction, a judge can order that the eviction be stayed - postponed - for up to three months if your family's inability to pay is related to your military service.

Child Support

Child support can be a particularly challenging area for parents who are actively serving in the military.

Noncustodial parents who are called to active duty may experience sudden changes in income that interfere with their ability to make scheduled child support payments. Similarly, custodial parents who are called to active duty may find that they need additional support to provide for their children during periods of deployment.

Military parents who experience a change in income as a result of being called to active duty for more than 30 days can request a review and modification of child support by Missouri Child Support Enforcement. This is true for parents who pay child support as well as for those who receive it.

Military parents with past-due child support can also ask to have their past due amounts adjusted. Service members who have had their income withheld as a result of past-due child support, may be able to reduce the amount of future withholdings by having their past-due amount adjusted.

Divorce and Legal Proceedings

Additional protections of the SSCRA apply to divorce and other legal proceedings against you. These include postponing proceedings until a military family member returns from duty, and setting aside default judgments when military service prevented attendance.

An Attorney Can Assist

If you are a military family and need advice, particularly in the areas of divorce and child support, contact a knowledgeable family law attorney. A lawyer can advise you of your options and advocate on your behalf.