Many world events, as seen during the pandemic, can be a trigger to even more challenges for those with a marriage on the rocks. According to Brian Serafini and Julie Brines’ recent research at the University of Washington, divorce filings pick over the summer, especially in August. The authors evoke many reasons in the study as vacations are so stressful, they drive the already dissatisfied to divorce. But most likely is that people decide their differences are irreconcilable right after a significant change of routine and spending more time together.
“Entering the world of divorce is a daunting experience. You are likely fearful of the reactions from those affected and uncertain of your future. Adding to the unpredictability, most of us have no idea where or how to begin the divorce process (especially if your spouse was the one that demanded a divorce) and all that we need to consider and decide along the way. Your trust has been broken, and yet the divorce process necessitates that you find and trust strangers to look out for your best interests.”
AAFSW’s commitment to supporting spouses in crisis remains strong. There are also a set of resources and mechanisms available at State, and within the Washington, DC metropolitan area. Many of these can be accessed online or by phone for those still abroad.
Celine C. Erickson
A useful article:
The Divorce Process: What to Expect Step by Step, The divorce process doesn’t come with a “how-to” manual, and there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach. Here are 7 steps to help make it more manageable by Journey Beyond Divorce Updated: June 18, 2018
Be ready, know your rights:
Highlights from “Divorce and Separation” from the Family Liaison Office (FLO).
Before leaving post:
To minimize the disruption to the children’s education or to give the spouse time to get organized, post may provide temporary housing if available; however, this is not a requirement. Curtailment is always an option and post management may determine this for the employee if there is no suitable solution at post.
Before the spouse departs post, the couple should both sign and have notarized:
Statement of mutual consent that one partner is not deserting or abandoning the other
The employee should sign the following:
Joint Property Statement (14 FAM 627.6) which will allow the spouse access to goods in
Authorization to Receive Goods Shipped from Post, which will allow the spouse to receive household effects.
Back in the U.S.
Separate Maintenance Allowance: In case of separation a spouse is not eligible for Separate Maintenance Allowance. This allowance is not intended for situations of marital separation or divorce. (DSSR 261.1b). Separate Maintenance Allowance should always be entirely spent by the receiving spouse and family members when in the U.S.
Consequences for a Foreign Service Officer in arrears with child support: Any individual owing over $2500 in child support is prohibited from receiving a new or renewed passport. This statute includes tourist, diplomatic, and official passports. (P.L. 104-93)
Foreign-born spouse of a Foreign Service Officer vs. as a U.S.-born spouse rights
regarding divorce: A foreign-born spouse, whether a U.S. citizen, has the same rights under Department of State regulations as a U.S.-born spouse. The couple should be aware that foreign marriages and divorces may not always be recognized in U.S. courts. Also, the Department of State may not recognize provisions for former spouse benefits that may be included in a foreign divorce. (Title 22, Part 19, Section19.2 (f))
Employee Consultation Service (ECS) provides short-term counseling and referrals for State Department employees and family members. This is a confidential, free service staffed by licensed clinical social workers. ECS has a monthly divorce support group that meets at the Department of State. Contact: 703-812-2257 or MEDECS@state.gov.
WorkLife4You – Department of State, both Civil Service and Foreign Service employees and family members are eligible to use this service. Phone: 1-866- 552-4748 / TTY: 1-800-873-1322. For login information, contact FLO at FLOAskSupportServices@state.gov.
Collaborative Divorce VA help couples to avoid conventional legal process: to resolve all issues in a divorce case without going to court, Collaborative Practice offers you a team of skilled and compassionate professionals. https://vacollaborativepractice.com/
2nd Saturday Divorce Workshops offers non-biased financial, emotional and legal advice from qualified local professionals, providing people with the knowledge, support, resources and trust that they need to survive the divorce process and move forward with confidence toward a new life. https://www.secondsaturday.com/
Third Thursdays from the Collaborative Project of Washington, DC is a free divorce workshop that meets on the third Thursday of each month (generally). Participants can drop in—no rsvp is required—and hear directly from lawyers, financial professionals, therapists, child specialists, realtors, and more.
The Women’s Center (open to all genders) – classes/resources
The Women’s Center offers free services to significantly improve the mental health and well-being of all members of the community through counseling, education, support and advocacy, with a strong program on divorce and family. https://thewomenscenter.org/about-us/