Air Force unveils interesting pilot program to keep divorce rate down

There is no question that life in the military can be hard on a marriage. That’s because spouses are forced to deal with everything from deployments and long work hours to constant moves and the always-scary possibility of active warfare.

Interestingly, the one branch of our nation’s armed forces in which marriages seem to be most affected by these stressors is the Air Force. Indeed, statistics show that the divorce rate in the Air Force has increased almost every year since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan began back in the early 2000s, and that this branch has actually had the single highest divorce rate of all service branches since 2011.

The good news, however, is that this trend appears to reversing, as statistics reveal that the divorce rate in the Air Force, while still high compared to the other service branches, has nevertheless consistently fallen over the last two-plus years.

For example, the divorce rate among the enlisted ranks of the Air Force — which saw the highest overall numbers — fell from 8.4 percent for women in 2011 to 7.6 percent in 2013, and 3.8 percent for men in 2011 to 3.6 percent in 2013.

In an effort to keep these numbers headed in the right direction, Air Force officials are currently running a so-called “Marriage Checkup” pilot program at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio and Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center here in Texas.

As part of the program, primary care physicians are being trained to include questions about the health of a patient’s marriage during exams and refer those with potential issues to the program.

The participating couples will then take part in three half-hour sessions held over the course of a year led by a trained social worker or psychologist. During the sessions, the professional will inquire about the couple’s perceived strengths and weaknesses, and help them address concerns they have going forward.

The underlying purpose of the program is to identify and resolve issues before it’s already too late.

“When you go to see the doctor when you’re already sick, or the dentist when your tooth already hurts — so we want to be able to get in there earlier at a stage where couples haven’t deteriorated as far,” said the psychology professor helping the Air Force implement the program. “Because if you’re getting in there regularly, we can keep you healthier longer.”

It will be interesting to see if this program proves successful and, if so, whether it is rolled out into the other service branches.

If you are actively considering a divorce, consider speaking with an experienced legal professional to learn more about your rights concerning everything from property division to child custody.

Source: The Air Force Times, “Divorce and the Air Force: Who stays married and who doesn’t,” Oriana Pawlyk, April 28, 2014