Murphy's Law: Mommy Goes Marching Off To War


September 13, 2009: One of the biggest problems unit (especially company and battalion) commanders have when preparing to go overseas, is dealing with troops who have family problems. Active duty troops at least have a support system on their base, but reservists have to improvise. However, the troops with the biggest problems, active duty or reservist, are single parents. Nearly eight percent of all military personnel are single parents. Either divorced or never married, most are women (who comprise about 15 percent of military personnel). The army, which has the most people overseas, has to deal with about eleven percent of the troops going, being single parents.

Most of the single parents are able to make arrangements for someone (usually a relative) to take care of the kids. But single parents have some unique problems. For example, if they are divorced, they have an ex-spouse who shares custody, or may still be litigation going on, for more custody. Shipping out for a combat zone, and leaving unsettled legal proceedings, as well as the kids, is not a pleasant experience. Some of these cases turn out badly, with judge ruling against the absent soldier, who often doesn't find this out until she gets back from Iraq or Afghanistan.

There aren't many of these worst-case-situations, but they are considered very newsworthy, and tend to get a lot of media attention. This has led to attempts to pass federal laws to give the deployed troops some protection from aggressive litigation (pushed by a vengeful ex-spouse) directed at them while they are out of the country. The Department of Defense doesn't want these laws, feeling that this would make the situation worse (if only because each state has different child custody and family laws, and the Department of Defense doesn't want to get dragged into all this, along with the Justice Department.)



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