Studies show that military personnel (especially female) have a higher rate of divorce while in active duty

Oprah had a show on today about women in the military and how about 6,500 of them are currently homeless after resuming civilian life. Also, many of them lose custody of their children, permanently, on account of the fact that they are deployed for extended periods of time. That was really disheartening to hear.

Why so high divorce rate for women in the military?

Of course, if a parent is deployed for extended periods of time, it makes sense that the other parent should have custody. I am a bit conflicted on the issue because one of the mothers got up, in tears, talking about how she lost custody to the child’s father and that when she got out, the courts wouldn’t give her her daughter back. I was struck by that, because I thought, “yes, I hear you. I understand your pain. But the courts did not give your daughter to a stranger. The courts gave the child to her father. And he has an equal right to custody as you. She is not your daughter. She is both yours and his.”
That was my first reaction.
But then I thought about it some more and I wondered whether may it is unfair to divest a parent of custody for going to work, albeit a job that takes them away from the children for years at a time sometimes. I am of the school of thought that a parent should not lose custody just because he or she goes to work. That is just backwards and ridiculous. Isn’t it? At the same time, this notion that a parent like the woman on Oprah today thinks of the child as “my daughter” when the child has two parents is a bit problematic. (See how I’ve grown in my thinking of these issues? Two years ago I wouldn’t have found anything wrong with what she said; now I do.)
But yea, this post is about the higher divorce rates for female soldiers. I guess that goes back to the stereotype of what a woman and mother is supposed to be. Mothers are still expected to be there, present, nurturing and available. When she goes off to combat in foreign war zones, and leaves her children and husband, its still a bigger transgression than when the man does it. Men are expected, still, to go out and provide and be the ones in combat. Frankly, I am one of those who still view this as a man’s role (working on changing that but it will take a bit more time….hey, I got to the point where I can say unequivocally that a ban on gay marriage is wrong, didn’t I? So I will get there too, where I say that I no longer believe that men should be the main breadwinner in the family. Just give me time…). But that is what is contributing, I think to the higher divorce rates for female soldiers, this traditional notion of  what a wife and mother is.
The irony is that while women are expected to still be the nurturers and to be present (and thus, are considered neglectful mothers if they are in the military and are deployed for long periods of time away from their families) at the same time, when they come back home and try to resume that nurturing role, they are penalized and the courts are divesting them of custody in favor of the fathers.
But that is changing, according to the woman on Oprah. Because about 33 states have expanded on the federal laws to interpret them in favor of parents who are deployed – like the laws we discussed here, to say that service women cannot lose custody just because they are deployed. Which, again, is interesting. Because the children have been living with their other parent. And what is he? Chopped liver? He has an equal right to custody of the kids. So to me, there should be a joint custody situation in these cases. And if the parties can’t work together? Then certainly a joint legal custody situation can be arranged, and then shared residential custody.
What do you think about this?