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AAFSW Shares: 2023 Global Community Liaison Office (GCLO) “Divorce and the Foreign Service Rights and Responsibilities” guidelines

Celine Ford, June 6, 2024

AAFSW is pleased to present the ‘Divorce and the Foreign Service Rights and Responsibilities’ guidelines, a crucial resource for our community. These guidelines, part of the 2023 Global Community Liaison Office (GCLO), showcase AAFSW’s continuous advocacy by AAFSW, particularly the Spouses in Crisis and Crisis Fund Chairs. We have been championing better treatment of abandonment during separation and divorce with the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Global Talent Management Bureau and Congress.

In the context of the foreign service community, while there is no specific data on the divorce rate, AAFSW has observed an uptick in families contemplating separation or divorce in recent years. These circumstances often emerge under severe conditions for the spouse and children. Living abroad without the support of extended family or friends, families, and individual members of the foreign affairs community confronts unique relationship stresses. They frequently must adjust their personalities or lifestyles to blend into local contexts. The pressures of relocating to a new environment and leaving behind one’s support network can strain marriages.

Life-altering events such as divorce can be profoundly stressful, often leading to trauma that can impair our decision-making abilities. This state of vulnerability can sometimes open the door to exploitation. Proceeding with a divorce hastily without comprehensive legal advice, signing documents without a thorough understanding of their implications, and misjudging and misclassifying marital assets can all present considerable risks. In their urgency to escape an unhealthy marriage, some individuals may be willing to relinquish assets they are rightfully entitled to. On the other hand, others may opt to endure harmful marriages due to financial limitations. Both situations are far from ideal.

Familiarizing yourself and sharing the 2023 Global Community Liaison Office (GCLO) “Divorce and the Foreign Service Rights and Responsibilities” guide is highly recommended. This comprehensive resource provides invaluable information and resources for those navigating this challenging process. It outlines the rights and responsibilities of Foreign Service employees or dependents serving under the Chief of Mission at post or their manager in the DMV. It also guides potential pension, survivor, and health benefits, as well as resources for counseling services. You can contact the Management Officer assigned to your post for more detailed information. Please remember that some benefits may cease once a divorce is finalized.

Amidst the challenges of divorce, it’s essential to know that AAFSW is steadfast in its commitment to supporting family members in these situations, whether in the U.S. or overseas. We actively mediate and negotiate with the State Department’s Family Liaison Office, support groups, and networks of family lawyers, ensuring that you have the necessary support during this difficult time.

When in a distress situation, usually during a separation or divorce, to find support navigating these challenging transitions, and under a strict rule of confidentiality, do not hesitate to contact the AAFSW Spouses in Transition Chair, the Foreign-Born Spouse State Liaison Chair, or the Office Manager.

We strongly encourage you to share these guidelines with your colleagues and friends in the Foreign Affairs community. By spreading this information, we can better support each other and ensure everyone knows their rights and responsibilities during divorce.

Divorce and the Foreign Service – U.S. Department of State

 Spouses in Transition Support – Associates of the American Foreign Service Worldwide (aafsw.org)