There is a good Forbes article this week entitled Why Companies Should Hire Military Spouses, A ‘Very Misunderstood Talent Pool’. Anyone who has spent any time with the military can attest to the sacrifices that a military spouse must make for the sake of the member’s career.
A soldier or airman can move every 3-4 years and settle right into a new unit in a position he/she is completely suited for, surrounded by fellow warriors who themselves are not native to wherever they happen to live. Sure, moving is a hassle, once settled in, the military member is at “home.” At least until it’s time to deploy, and the member’s life is on the line, working long hours in a miserable, hot place fighting for our nation.
The spouse, on the other hand, typically has to fly with the kids, settle them into school, wrangle with the moving company over the household goods shipment (which may take months for an overseas PCS), set up the house, and then fight yet again when property is broken or missing. And naturally, a good military spouse is then expected to support the member’s career, taking care of the kids when they are sick, volunteering for family readiness groups, and taking care of home and family when the member deploys.
But the impact upon a spouse’s career is perhaps the most challenging. As the family PCS’s, the member is periodically promoted, sent to schools, and earns more. Meanwhile, the spouse is uprooted every few years, finding it next-to-impossible to settle into a career. And if the family is on an overseas tour, that is especially true. And the statistics in the article tell of their sacrifices: 28% of military spouses are unemployed, and another 55% are underemployed – educated men and women who have to obtain low-level employment because they cannot find suitable work.
Often, military spouses are faced with the harsh reality of state licensing schemes, by which so many professions, lawyer, realtor, teacher, etc, need to re-license in each state where they practice – costing time and money. (Plus, who wants to spend their lives studying for and taking tests?) Fortunately, there are some efforts to improve the lot of military spouses. I’ve known several lawyers married to military members, for example, and now thanks to the efforts of groups such as the Military Spouses JD Network, 32 states have adopted a model rule which allows lawyer-spouses to practice temporarily in a state where the family is stationed.
But even those fortunate enough to obtain suitable employment can testify to the disruption that constant PCS’s has on their career – when they move, they tend to lose whatever seniority the may have earned, and start at the bottom. And while employers may be seeking a long-term employment relationship, a military spouse is likely to move on in a few years (or less).
If the marriage ends, the law helps out. Each of the services has a regulation requiring members to provide support to family members pending a court order. And Colorado maintenance laws help to some degree. The law may require maintenance (“alimony”) to a lower-income earning spouse, which will help to get her feet back on the ground. But this is a short-term fix, and over time is unlikely to make up for the career sacrifices of a military spouse.
At Graham.law, we respect and support the military community, and that most assuredly includes spouses. Not only do we represent members and spouses in dissolution cases, but we put our money where our mouth is – most of our firm are veterans, family members, or both. And in hiring military spouses, we have tapped an excellent source of talent:
- Cindi Gregory, our senior paralegal, is an Air Force veteran (first security forces, then as a paralegal), and a military spouse whose husband is an Air Force recruiter.
- Corinna Cabrera, our other family law paralegal, is a former military spouse whose veteran husband was an Army scout and is now a DOD contractor.
- Megan Bent, a family law attorney, is a military spouse married to an Air Force pilot.
- Tracy Kellett, our firm administrator, is both a veteran (Army psyops), and a military spouse whose husband is in the 10th Special Forces Group at Fort Carson.
- Carl Graham, our managing partner, is a veteran who spent 8 years in the Army JAG Corps, and author of the Military Divorce Guide.