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Are Military Divorces Common? What You Need to Know About Military Divorce Rates

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Military Divorce

Are military divorces common? Divorce isn’t an easy or pleasant topic to talk about, but unfortunately, it happens pretty often. The divorce rate in the United States is estimated at anywhere from 20 to 50 percent.

With divorce rates being so high, it’s not surprising to hear military divorce rates are high. It’s estimated the military divorce rate is around 3 percent. While that number doesn’t seem high, it is a higher divorce rate than in other job fields.

Several factors could explain why military divorce rates are high. Let’s take a look at some of the statistics on the military divorce rate, why it’s high, and what exactly happens in a military divorce.

Military Divorce Statistics

Military Statistics

Let’s go over some basic statistics on military divorces.

Divorce Rate Among Different Branches

The divorce rate differs among the various military branches. The Air Force had the highest divorce rate of active-duty service members at 3 percent. The Marine Corps and Army had about the same rate at 2.7 percent. The Navy had the lowest divorce rate at 2.6 percent.

All active-duty branches have experienced a decrease in divorce rate since 2010, with the Marine Corps having the highest decrease at 1.1 percent.

Enlisted Service Members vs. Officers

An enlisted service member was estimated to have a divorce rate of 3.1 percent, which is higher than the rate for officers (1.6%). The Air Force had the highest divorce rate for enlisted troops (3.5%), while the Navy had the highest divorce rate among officers (1.9%)

The greatest difference between enlisted service members and officers was in the Air Force (2.1%), while the lowest difference was among the Navy (0.9%)

Age and Gender

The divorce rate for female troops is higher than their male counterparts. According to Military.com, in 2020, the divorce rate for all female military members was 6.5% compared to 2.5% for males.

The age of divorce leaned on the younger side. The most common age of divorce in the military is estimated to be 30.

Military vs. Other Job Fields

According to the career site Zippia, military jobs ranked higher than other job fields in the divorce rate. Among those under 30, first-line enlisted military supervisors ranked 7 out of 10 for jobs with the highest divorce rate, while military jobs, in general, ranked 8 out of 10.

Why Is The Military Divorce Rate High?

Since military divorce rates are higher compared to other professions, it’s worth looking at some potential reasons for the high divorce rate.

Here are some unique challenges military personnel face and how they can contribute to higher divorce rates.

Frequent Relocation

It’s estimated that military families must move every two to three years. Where they are relocated can vary, and sometimes they don’t have a choice of destination.

Most other jobs don’t require you to relocate often, and being forced to move so frequently can significantly strain a marriage. For some spouses, this can mean constantly finding a new job, making new friends, and being far away from family.

Frequent moves require a lot of sacrifices and can cause much strife between partners, especially if one of them feels like they have to make more compromises than the other.



In addition to frequent relocation, being deployed overseas or somewhere else far away can cause a lot of strain on a marriage.

The amount of time and what the deployment looks like will vary among the various branches. For instance, active-duty Navy members might spend seven months on a ship somewhere in the sea, while a Marine might be stationed for a year in another country.

Being separated for an extended period of time is difficult. Non-military spouses might be unsure whether their spouse will remain faithful, might be injured, or worse, die while stationed. There’s also the lack of having their partner around for emotional support, to take care of children, or help around the house, which can be frustrating.


Military Infidelity

Infidelity can be devastating for many and is a leading cause of divorce. A study published in 2017 found that among 63 married airmen, the sexual infidelity rate was 22.6 percent. The study also showed that 75 percent of the airmen who experienced sexual infidelity (whether by themselves, their spouse, or both) were divorced 6-9 months post-deployment.

As mentioned above, many spouses are uncertain if their partner will remain faithful while deployed. The uncertainty can be mutual, though. Deployed service members might be uncertain their spouses back home will remain faithful, which can lead to distrust among partners.



Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental health issues can lead to many issues. It’s been estimated that the lifetime prevalence of PTSD in veterans is 7 percent. The rate is notably higher among younger veterans (15%) and female veterans (13%).

Someone with PTSD might have trouble sleeping, irritability, intrusive negative thoughts, panic attacks, guilt, and might become more violent. Experiencing these symptoms makes daily life hard, and if they don’t personally address them, it bleeds into other aspects of their life, including their relationships.

Domestic Abuse

Domestic Abuse

Domestic abuse or violence is another common reason for divorce, and it can take many forms. It could be physical, verbal, or emotional, and the severity and length will differ among couples.

Domestic abuse can happen among any couple, and military couples are no different. However, between 2015 and 2019, over 42,000 incidents of domestic abuse were reported involving military service members, spouses, or intimate partners, with 75 percent of them reported as physical abuse. The Army had the most reported incidents, while the Marine Corps had the least.

What Happens During a Military Divorce?

Compared to your average divorce, military divorces have added layers of complication.

Basics of Divorce

When a divorce is filed, one or both spouses no longer want to be married. Paperwork must be filed with a local court, and the time to process the divorce will vary. Some divorces may take a few months, while others may take a few years.

When a divorce is finalized, both spouses will become single again and can remain single or remarry. However, a finalized divorce doesn’t always account for things like deciding on child support or alimony payments.

A divorce can be filed at any time but can’t be filed anywhere. It has to be filed in a state where the active-duty military member is stationed, has legal residency, or in the spouse’s legal state of residency.

Each state has its own laws and proceedings regarding divorce, which can be a challenge for some people. Service members and their spouses will also have to have established residency in the state of their choosing before filing the divorce.

Divorce While Deployed

A divorce can happen when one spouse is deployed, whether within the United States or not. Regardless of where it happens, it’s crucial the divorce is recognized within the United States.

For instance, a service member could get a divorce while stationed in another country, like Mexico, but it may not be valid since the same laws may not apply in the U.S. This is why it’s generally advised not to get a divorce if stationed outside the United States.

The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) can help service members abroad by allowing them to file for extensions and delay final court rulings. While helpful for service members, it can be frustrating for the non-military spouse who may want to speed along the process.

Military Benefits

Military marriages have a lot of benefits. Some common ones include better housing and living allowances, healthcare, saving/retirement plans, and loans.

When a divorce happens, the non-military spouse may retain some benefits, but often times they will lose them. A big factor is the 20/20/20 rule. This means a former spouse may continue to receive benefits if they were married for 20 years, with 20 years of military service, and an overlap of 20 years between marriage and military service.

Child Custody and Support

Child Custody

One of the trickiest aspects of a divorce is deciding on child custody and support.

If parents can’t agree on a parenting plan, a court will decide what is in the child’s best interest. Most courts will try to provide a joint custody plan to allow both parents the right to raise and care for their child, but there are some cases where a court will decide one parent retains sole custody or neither parent gets custody.

Outlook on Military Divorces

The military divorce rate will likely continue to move downward based on current trends. However, military marriages will also continue to trend downward. Fewer people getting married will result in fewer divorces.

Many leading causes of a divorce don’t seem like they will change much, nor will the complications that occur during a military divorce.

Still, it’s never quite certain how things will play out. Plenty of unforeseen circumstances can change the direction of military marriages.

While military divorce isn’t fun, it helps to know trends and why it happens so often. The more you know about it, the better you can prepare should you find yourself doing any work with military marriages or if you are in one yourself.

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Tactical Hyve Cadre

A group of our cadre members who cannot or do not want to be in the public's eye, often because they are on active duty, but who still want to provide you with vetted information and recommendations.

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