Divorce is hard, but divorcing as a military spouse is harder.
In my experience, when our separation went public, I found myself with zero command support and “friends” jumping ship because I was now the bad guy trying to take all the money and benefits they felt I no longer deserved because we didn’t want to be married any longer.
Of course, I realized early in the game that working with my ex-husband instead of against him was in my best interest because despite the problems we had, he was still a good dad and he didn’t deserve to be drug over the coals simply because our relationship wasn’t working out as we thought it would when we decided to get married.
Challenges faced when divorcing in the military
Commands and friends distancing themselves from the dependent spouse isn’t the only issue we’re going to face during a military divorce – there is also the fact that the military often sends our families all over the world and the majority of us will have to at some point to stay at the duty station or return to our families and hometowns. And this decision isn’t just a one-time thing either, as every time my ex-husband changes duty station, I will have to decide whether or not I should move with our children as well so that they can continue to see their dad on a regular basis.
And because our divorce is final, I will have to make this decision each time without the financial help of the military and without the help of professional movers. Ideally, I would love to stay within driving distance of my ex-husband always, because continuing to help facilitate his relationship with them is important to me, but the realist in me knows that at some point in the future, this may not be possible.
And if that wasn’t enough, military spouses notoriously face the issue of un- and underemployment at nearly every duty station. For those of us that can find work, we often find ourselves stuck in entry or mid-level positions because by the time we start advancing in the company, it’s time to move again. When I decided to stay within driving distance of my ex, the most important factor to me was employment.
I felt I couldn’t move back to my hometown because while the cost of living is lower than where I was living, there were also no jobs available in my field. One of the most useful resources I’ve found in my job hunting was the new Jobs Marketplace on Facebook, as I’ve used it three times now to successfully find a position.
What to expect if you decide to follow your ex
First of all, the support you’re used to won’t be there. The military will not pay to move your household goods, and while I’ve been able to find many people that are supportive of our family and situation in the military community, many military-related social groups in the community may see you as an outcast during and after your divorce.
For many spouses, that is especially hard, as we still deal with having military issues because our children are still military dependents, still carry Tricare, and still have base access for events. But, to find support you need and answers to your questions, you may have to work harder to find people that are willing to help you access the information you need for your children.
While most of my family and friends have been supportive, I’m very lucky to have a boyfriend that is extremely supportive of the co-parenting relationship I have with my ex-husband as well. When you decide to date again, it’s vital to find a partner that will support the bond your ex-spouse has with your children. And when it comes to the people you surround yourself with, I’ve found that is best for everyone if you surround yourself with positive people that can inspire you to move forward in a direction that will be positive for your whole family.
We moved to Virginia to live with my boyfriend after my ex-husband was stationed in North Carolina, about three hours away, and I was delighted to be surrounded by old friends from prior duty stations that were so supportive of our family in the past.
Things to consider
Unfortunately, continuing to follow your ex-spouse through the remainder of their career is not always a possibility for your children, and may not be even be the best course of action for every family. Moving is a huge financial commitment, and it would be ill-advised to move to an area where you would struggle to find good employment. Some former spouses have also been victims of abuse, and if this is you, the best thing you can put between you and your abuser is distance. You have to do what’s best for you AND your family.
I realize that each divorce and separation comes with different factors, but the most important thing to do if you decide that you’re going to co-parent is to put your personal feelings for your ex aside because this isn’t about the two of you anymore. It’s about your children, and what is best for them.
When you know what’s best for your children, you can start shaping your priorities and decisions you make around that. Doing the right thing isn’t always the easiest thing, but at the end of the day, you’ll be able to sleep better knowing you made the best decision possible.
While some of my friends think I’m crazy to have the desire to continue to stay within driving distance of my children’s father whenever possible, so many more have been supportive of my desire to this, and that support has been invaluable to me. I’m grateful that my daughters will grow up being able to see their dad as often as possible, and that we could put our feelings behind us to do what’s best for them.