There is a prevalent belief that military marriages are more likely than civilian marriages to end in divorce. There are multiple reasons that this cultural belief has taken hold. One is that military couples often marry at younger ages than the civilian public and then have to spend a significant amount of time separated from each other. Another is how the secrecy sometimes required of those in military service can strain the intimacy of a marital relationship. The trauma of military service may also lead to substance abuse or someone withdrawing from their closest relationships.
All of those factors combined mean that there are plenty of legitimate reasons for service members to worry about the state of their marriages, even if the public’s view of military marriages in general is far less nuanced than it ought to be. What does recent divorce data show about the likelihood of divorce in different branches of the military?
Divorce rates have held steady for years
There are occasional fluctuations in the overall military divorce rate, but it has remained relatively steady and higher than the civilian divorce rate for some time. According to military statistics, the overall divorce rate for servicemembers was roughly 3% in 2019. Both the Air Force and the Marine Corps have the highest rate of divorces at 3.3%. The Navy had the lowest divorce rate at an average of 2.8%. The Army used to have the highest divorce rate but now falls in the middle. Overall, those divorce rates are slightly higher than the national average rate.
Overall, the divorce rate was higher for enlisted troopers and lower among those who held officer positions. Some research has shown that those in elite roles, like special operations forces, are more likely to divorce. Female servicemembers and those under the age of 30 were also more likely to divorce. The Coast Guard did not provide information related to divorce rates among those serving.
Military divorce may require a more careful approach
Many aspects of divorce are different when one of the people in the relationship serves in the military. For example, accusations of adultery and abuse can have a much more profound impact on someone pursuing a military career than on a civilian. Additionally, there are often more practical challenges involved in the early stages of military divorce, as it can have a drastic impact on everything from health insurance to housing.
Being aware of one’s overall divorce risk and how the process can be different for those in the service may benefit individuals concerned about the possibility of initiating a military divorce.