Married Couples In The Military

Married In The Military

Military Marriage
The U.S. Army/Flickr

These days, it seems that more and more married couples are joining the military together and getting married shortly after training. They face many challenges that military members married to civilians don't deal with, but also have several advantages. The military does not guarantee to assign married couples together, however, it will try. The term is Dual-Military Couples. Both members of the relationship are active duty, but also military spouses. A family plan is needed for this couple especially when kids are involved. See below for more information on how many of these couples make it work.

Join Spouse Programs

Each of the services has an assignment program called "Join Spouse." Basically, under this program, the military will try as hard as it can to station military spouses at the same base or within 100 miles of each other. Note there is no guarantee -- the military just agrees to try. The services will not create a new slot for Join Spouse; there has to be an existing slot in the rank/job to which the member(s) can be assigned. This can be a difficult issue every time a couple is required to change duty stations.

About 80 percent of military couples are assigned within 100 miles of each other. That sounds pretty good until you realize that means 20 percent of military couples are not assigned close to each other.

There are some stories of couples who never get stationed together, however, these tend to be members of separate services, one being Air Force and one being Navy, for instance. Obviously, it's easier for the services to assign couples together when both are in the same branch. For one thing, it takes less coordination, as only one branch assignment division is involved.

Additionally, there aren't that many Air Force bases or Marine Corps bases that are close together. So, marrying someone in the same branch of service obviously increases your chance of a successful Join Spouse assignment.

Applying for Join Spouse Programs

If only one member applies for a Join Spouse, the assignment system won't process it. Then it's up to the military to determine who should move (or whether both couples should move), based on the needs of the service and funding constraints.

Time in service applies as well. In general, in order for a first-term member (a military member on his/her first enlistment), assigned to a CONUS (Continental United States) base, to move overseas, he/she must have 12 months time-on-station. In order for the first term member to move from one CONUS base to another, he/she must 24 months time-on-station.

Typically newlywed couples new to the military who live on different bases as their first tour assignment may not live together for a few years until they complete their assignment. However, if they enter into Join Spouse and apply for an overseas billet together, the likelihood of that transfer in a few years will be more possible for the couple to serve together.

Housing and Allowances for Married Military Couples

Military couples stationed together can live off-base and receive a housing allowance or can give up the housing allowance and live free in on-base family housing, just as members married to a civilian can.

If there are no dependents, each member is treated as single for housing allowance purposes, and each will receive the single-rate Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) for their rank and assignment location. If there are children, one member receives the with-dependent rate, and the other member receives the single rate. In most cases, the couples choose the senior-ranking member to receive the "with dependent" rate, as it means more money.

Complicated Career Decisions

Turning down a career enhancing duty station in order to stay together can be a dilemma many dual military couples have to face. The dual military couple relationship needs to be more flexible to accommodate both careers than their civilian counterparts. Due to the nature of military duty stations, commutes, and deployments, the dual military couple can expect changes in the balance of career and family responsibilities over time.

Family Separation Allowance

Family Separation Allowance is normally paid any time a military member is separated from his/her dependents for longer than 30 days due to military orders.

The same applies to military-married-to-military, except:

  • The members must be residing together immediately prior to the departure
  • Only one member can receive the allowance. Payment will be made to the member whose orders resulted in the separation. If both members receive orders requiring departure on the same day, then payment will go to the senior member.

Care of Children (Dependents)

Military couples with children must develop a "family care plan" that details exactly what the care arrangements are in the event that both members must deploy. Failure to develop and maintain a workable family care plan can result in discharge from the service for one or both of the military members.