After 20 years of marriage and three children, Army spouse Erin Ward and her soldier husband decided to get divorced. We asked her to answer some of the questions readers often have about military divorce. Erin is currently working on launching a website for ex military spouses called Parting Company.
Question: What do you wish you knew before you realized divorce was in your future?
Answer: I wish that I had planned better financially. I have always been a big promoter of each partner being financially self-sufficient and yet I don't feel like I heeded my own advice. My entire retirement goals, I realized after the fact, were wrapped up in his plans. It’s definitely been a wake-up call.
Q: What advice would you give a military spouse contemplating divorce?
A: If you are in the contemplating stage then there is still time to work on your marriage if both parties want to and there is not a abusive situation. Military relationships are incredibly hard and take more work than other relationships. Utilize every resource out there if you think your marriage is worth saving, programs like Corie Weathers’ Enliven Marriage could be just the thing to strengthen a relationship that is not too far gone.
Q: Did the service member’s career influence your decision on whether or not to move somewhere else after getting divorced?
A: For me it did not. After years of not living near family I was fine to stay in the area I was in upon divorce. I had built a great support network and life that I didn't want to leave.
Q: How does your ex’s military career influence your life now?
A: We do not have traditional visitation agreements because of his military career. He is stationed very far away from where we are so it's been incredibly difficult for him to continue to connect with our children. It's definitely a challenge.
Q: How did you decide where to file for divorce?
A: We filed where I was living.
Q: Does a military spouse need a divorce lawyer? Why or why not?
A: Absolutely! You should never go through a divorce unrepresented. Emotions are running high in a divorce and the right attorney can help balance those while also ensuring that your rights are protected and that you understand any benefits that may be due to you as a divorced military spouse. Q: Does a divorce lawyer need to have experience with military law and policy?
A: Military divorces are unique so having an attorney with experience in military divorces can make a huge difference. There are special circumstances that can come about. Having an attorney with knowledge and experience can protect you for years to come.
Q: What about health benefits? Commissary privileges? Getting kids on base for privileges? What privileges and benefits do you have after getting divorced?
A: Divorced military spouses, I have found, are often unaware that they can receive special access to installation services even if they no longer have an ID card. When you are the custodial parent of minor children, you can access installations for things like the commissary, doctors appointments and many MWR services. Check with your installation access control for the steps on receiving this valuable access card.
Q: Do you still identify with the military community? Why or why not?
A: After 20 years as a military spouse I absolutely do. I feel like I gave a lot of my time as a spouse and volunteer, and I have a career that is centered around the military community. That isn't something that is taken away or magically disappears because my marriage is over. This is my family and I still love my family!
Q: Do you regret marrying a service member? Why or why not?
A: Absolutely not. What an adventure I have been blessed with over the last 20 years. I came into the crazy military community not having any clue what to expect and, although it's been a whirlwind with a side of heartache, I wouldn't change a thing.
Q: Do you regret getting divorced? Why or why not?
A: Not at all. Things weren't working. We were just moving through the motions. We both just wanted to be happy and that is what I have found these days.
Q: Any parting thoughts?
A: Divorce doesn't have to be nasty. Both parties can choose to keep things positive, though that can sometimes be tough. There are days that I want to just scream but I don't because it won't get me anywhere other than me being upset. I feel like if you can, you should take a step back and realize that this is just another hurdle in life to get through. You can move forward and you can do it with integrity and your head held high. And sometimes the other side is pretty darn great when all is said and done.