Steps and Resources to Walk through the Transition and Divorce Process for the American Foreign Affairs Community
Divorce within the Foreign Service community always involves legal challenges that can complicate the process, especially when there are children involved. Relocation, when a trailing spouse wants to return home with the children, often with no moral or financial support from their spouse–a commissioned officer–is always a challenge. Every year, Foreign Service spouses reach out to AAFSW for help in a situation of crisis, usually during a separation or divorce. Some American and foreign-born spouses find themselves under unforeseen and appalling situations of abandonment, with their family and friends spread out within the U.S. or abroad, preventing them from receiving any financial or moral support.
While there is no specific data on divorce rate within the Foreign Service community, AAFSW notes that more families have been looking into separation or divorce in recent years, often under dire circumstances for the trailing spouse and children. Without their extended family or friends around, families and couples tend to deal with unique relationship stresses living overseas, needing to re-engineer their personality or life to adjust to local contexts. Moving to a new environment and the pressures that come with leaving one’s support network at home can put a strain on marriages.
Although divorce will likely continue to be a challenging process, AAFSW is committed to supporting separating and divorcing family members in the U.S. or abroad, through mediating and negotiating among State Department’s Family Liaison Office, support groups and family lawyers’ networks.
Under the leadership of Lara Center, AAFSW President, Sheila Switzer, AAFSW Foreign-Born Spouse State Liaison, Dr. Joanna Athanasopoulos Owen, AAFSW President Emeritus, and under a strict rule of confidentiality, spouses are encouraged to reach out to AAFSW and Celine Erickson, Spouses in Transition Chair, when in situation of distress, usually during a separation or divorce, to find support navigating through these challenging transitions.
The AAFSW Family Crisis Fund, established in 2015 (and financed by donations), helps pay for emergency expenses such as groceries, utility bills, partial rent payments, or one or two hours of legal consultation.
Please do not hesitate to contact us through the contact form below. Specify you are interested in our Spouses in Transition team and we will get back to you shortly. AAFSW is here to support you!
Please find attached useful links, including the “Divorce and the Foreign Service” handbook.
Best of luck,
Celine Erickson, Spouses in Transition Chair
Tales Shared by Family Members Since 2017
A comprehensive guide to Foreign Service Officer Salaries
The Global Community Liaison Office (GCLO) serves U.S. government direct-hire employees and their family members, from all agencies under Chief of Mission authority serving overseas and returning to the United States. GCLO’s mission is to improve the quality of life of all demographics we serve by identifying issues and advocating for programs and solutions, providing a variety of client services, and extending services to overseas communities through the management of the worldwide Community Liaison Office (CLO) program.
GCLO Divorce Resources
The Global Community Liaison Office (GCLO) provides guidance and support in the area of divorce. Foreign Service employees and family members in the process of a divorce are eligible to access these services. While Foreign Service couples go through divorce proceedings in the same manner as those living permanently in the United States, there are factors to consider which may complicate or prolong the process due to the nature of international assignments.
GCLO’s “Divorce and the Foreign Service” Online Publication
This GCLO publication addresses topics related to separation and divorce, including Advance Travel.
WL4Y is the Department of State’s 24/7 Employee Assistance Program (EAP) for employees and their family members. WL4Y provides free 24/7 counseling, education, and referral services that help Department of State employees and family members find the programs, providers, information, and resources they need to manage personal and professional responsibilities. For login information, contact GCLOAskSupportServices@state.gov.
Court-Ordered Benefits for Former Spouses
Employee Consultation Services (Intranet)
Email at: MEDECS@state.gov, Or call: 202-634-4874
Employee Consultation Services 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.
Family Advocacy Program (3 FAM 1810)
Curtailment of Foreign Assignments (3 FAM 2443)
Permanent Removal (of household effects in storage) (14 FAM 627.6)