The breakdown of a marriage/civil partnership is a private matter between two individuals, but the Army is able to offer help and support.
On the UK mainland access to publicly-funded counselling is provided under contract and can be obtained through referral from the Army Welfare Service (AWS). Many overseas locations operate some form of counselling service. An equivalent publicly funded service called Staff Care is available in Northern Ireland.
Estrangement is formally recorded on Form AFO 1700, changing the Serviceperson’s Personal Status Category (PStatCat). The Serviceperson’s unit should ensure that both parties are interviewed prior to signature of the form so that they are aware of the consequences.
If the couple are living in Service Family Accommodation (SFA), the Commanding Officer (CO) can authorise the Serviceperson to move into Single Living Accommodation while maintaining the family home if it considered a cooling off period may assist with a possible reconciliation. This would normally be for a period of up to 90 days.
Should there be no chance of reconciliation, the Serviceperson will sign the AFO 1700. If the non-Service spouse is living in SFA, he/she will be served with a Notice to Vacate for a period of 93 days.
This is a necessary step, not only so the SFA can be provided for an entitled family but also so that the non-Service spouse is able to apply for Local Authority accommodation.
In the case of estrangement occurring overseas, the CO should give the family the opportunity to return to the UK before the start of the Notice to Vacate period. This move is to be publicly funded and the spouse/civil partner can move either into available SFA, the Service Cotswold Centre, SSAFA_FS Stepping Stone Homes or private accommodation.
Sources of Support
As an estranged family, you can access support from your Unit Welfare Officer, the Army Welfare Service and the Joint Service Housing Advice Office (for advice on your housing options). Your local Citizens Advice Bureau or HIVE can provide you with a list of local solicitors, and advice is also available from charities such as SSAFA, the Royal British Legion and other non-Service charities.
If the family is subject to a visa status, the unit will inform the Home Office of the change. This may affect the family’s right to remain in the UK, should they wish to stay. If you are concerned about your immigration status, you may wish to talk to the Army Families Federation’s immigration advisers.