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Study: The longer the deployment, the greater the odds of divorce

You thought you knew what you were getting into when you and your spouse got married. You were in the military when you started dating. It's a career path for you, not a temporary job.

It's turning out to be harder than you ever imagined. The separation when you're deployed gets tougher every time you leave. Even when you're not overseas, you have to move often. You work long hours. You have a high-stress job and you can't even discuss all aspects of it with your spouse.

The odds of divorce

According to one study, that lifestyle could take such a toll that it leads to divorce. The study, which the U.S. Department of Defense sponsored and the RAND corporation carried out, found that deployments, in particular, increase divorce odds, which go up the longer that deployment lasts.

Here are four key findings that help paint a picture:

  • The vast majority of the divorces (97 percent) happened after the military member came back from the deployment. This suggests that the marriage had really fallen apart during the deployment, but the couple decided to wait to make it official until they could do it in person.
  • The likelihood that the couple would get divorced went up with each cumulative month that the military member was deployed. Couples appeared better at toughing it out through short deployments, but longer ones really made them reevaluate where they stood.
  • If the couple had children, the odds that they would get divorced were less than they were for couples who did not have any kids.
  • The most common situation found in the studied cases was when a male military member came home and was then divorced by a female spouse.

Of course, there were cases that didn't fit this mold, but these general trends permeated the study.

The 9/11 impact

One interesting thing that researchers found was that divorce rates were lower for those who tied the knot after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, than they were for those who got married before the attacks.

While many factors could play into that, researchers believed that it related to the couple's mindset. The current war in the Middle East began after those attacks, so couples married before they happened may not have realistically assumed the service member would get involved in an active war. Those married after the war started knew that war was a realistic possibility and were better prepared to deal with the stress, the deployments and everything else.

The divorce process

Military life can make divorce complicated, with tight schedules and obligations to one's country. If you and your spouse decide to split up, be sure you know everything you can about how the process works.

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