Security Clearance and Divorce

Posted on Jan 12, 2018 by Katie Carter

Living where we live, there are a lot of people in our area with high profile military and civilian careers that require security clearances.

If your husband has a security clearance

For a husband who has a security clearance, it’s often a super big deal – which makes it a big bargaining chip for you. When you file for divorce, it’s pretty public. It isn’t published in a newspaper or anything, but you can see, online, what’s filed, what motions are pending, and check on a final disposition of a case. If it actually goes to court, there’s nothing that restricts anyone who might be interested from coming and sitting in on a case. Even though most of the time that doesn’t happen, it still could.

If you’ve got some sort of dirt on your husband – like, for example, that he committed adultery, or is physically abusive – he may be more willing than most to keep it out of court. Of course, most of the time, everyone wants to keep things out of court, because it’s time consuming, expensive, and not exactly well designed to yield the best results.

After all, if we’re honest, a judge doesn’t care too much about how much you receive; he just wants to divide things equitably, avoid being overturned on appeal, and move on with life. That’s not to say anything bad against any judges; they just don’t have the time on their docket to devote to maximizing the value of assets, or figuring out new and exciting ways to divide property between parties. For the most part, it’s simple: sell, and split. To you, maximizing value, or determining which half you’ll receive, is super important, but to a judge, it’s just a business transaction: dividing the marital shares between the parties.

There’s another option, though. Rather than putting your entire marriage up for display in a courtroom where anybody could be watching or listening, you can negotiate a separation agreement. That will allow you to keep the issues in your divorce more private; a separation agreement also allows the two of you to reach a decision about how the two of you will divide all the assets and liabilities in the marriage, rather than leaving it up to a judge to decide.

Separation agreements are great for a lot of reasons – in your case, though, because your husband is concerned about his security clearance, keeping it out of court is chief among them. It’s important to know that you have this negotiation tool.

What if it’s MY security clearance in question?

Obviously, it’s not always the husband who has the security clearance! (I only started discussing it from that perspective because I see husbands with security clearances all the time, and also because it’s the more ideal situation to be in the position of knowing a point that will be persuasive for him than the opposite.)

Just the simple fact of him filing for divorce isn’t a real concern. People file for divorce all the time, and that in and of itself won’t impact your security clearance. It’s really more a question of the allegations involved. To know whether his allegations against you could be damaging for your security clearance, it’s important to know what kind of security clearance is involved. They’re not all the same. If you’re wondering, it might be a good idea to have a conversation one on one with an attorney to discuss the options and the risks in your unique situation.

Don’t be afraid just on the basis that a divorce might be filed; it’s more the substance of the divorce that could be an issue. You’ll definitely want to talk to someone about it, if you’re worried.

Can I get him fired for his misconduct in the divorce?

Maybe. It depends, like always, on exactly what the allegations are, and the proof that you have.
Consider, too, that you might not want to get him fired. If he’s fired, he loses his ability to pay spousal or child support – and that could put you in a financial bind first. As satisfying as it might be to call him out for his lying, cheating, abuse, or other terrible behavior, consider first the consequences to yourself if something were to actually impact his career. If you’re expecting support of any kind, you’ll want him to be able to work.

So, don’t call his supervisor. Don’t call his command. At least, not without talking to an attorney first and coming up with a divorce-related strategy. It’s not the most satisfying answer, especially when you’ve been wronged, but it’s the right answer. You want to be careful and take only steps that are designed to help move your case towards a successful resolution. Keep your best interests (and the best interests of your children) in mind. Support is often a major issue in a divorce, and you don’t want to bite your nose to spite your face, so to speak.

For more information about divorce, or how to proceed when there are security clearances at issue, give our office a call to set up a one on one appointment at 757-425-5200.