Maintaining a healthy relationship whilst working for the RAF can sometimes be difficult due to the demands placed on our Service personnel which may impact on their family members.
If you are struggling with your relationship, we hope the information in these pages will help you understand the support available to you as a Serving person or their partner, whether you are looking for ways to try and continue with your relationship or how best to manage your separation.
- Getting help to resolve relationship issues
- Help when your relationship has ended
- Living in SFA in a relationship breakdown
- The impact of a relationship breakdown on children
- Pensions on divorce and dissolution of civil partnerships
- Child maintenance information
- Maintaining health and wellbeing
Getting help to resolve relationship issues
If you and your partner are finding it tough, there are many relationship support options available to help you. Some are free of charge and others offer an allowance of a set amount of sessions before you pay. You will need your serving person’s Service Number to hand when you make initial contact, (just to confirm eligibility). Speak to your welfare team on your Unit for further information (this doesn’t have to be SSAFA, often the Padre, Hive Information Officer and others in the team can help).
Alternatively, the RAF Benevolent Fund can offer the following support options:
- Building Stronger Families online course
- Relate counselling sessions – up to six free sessions with your nearest Relate branch – telephone counselling and advice via web-based live chat now available too
- Discounted Family Mediation sessions – to help with disputes over living arrangements, child maintenance, property and financial matters
All are confidential services to you with independent contact details. No-one in the RAF will be told that you have accessed these services unless there are safeguarding issues which may need acting on.
Our relationship has ended
If you have already decided to separate, divorce or dissolve a partnership the Family Mediation Council can offer access to a local mediator who can help sort out formal arrangements with finances and child access without going to court. You can enter your postcode online and find a registered family mediator near you.
Living in SFA during a marriage breakdown
When a relationship in the Services breaks down there may be additional issues to be addressed that civilian couples don’t have to face, such as eligibility to allowances and entitlement to Service Families Accommodation. Here we explain what you need to know about living in SFA during a marriage breakdown.
If the Serving person leaves the family home and goes into single service accommodation (for example), there is a ‘cooling off’ period of 93 days, where the couple try and work out their issues. Once this period has ended, the Service person must decide either to return to the family home or change their Personal Status Category (PStat Cat) from ‘married’ to ‘separated’.
Once the Personal Status Category is changed (this could be done by the Service person at any time if it is obvious that the relationship is over) if the family are in Service Families Accommodation, the Service person must advise the DIO Loss of Entitlements Team. The service person will be responsible for paying for that SFA for a further 93 days to allow the remaining family members to make alternative living arrangements.
The impact of relationship breakdown on children
When a family unit breaks down it can have a negative effect on the children, whatever their age. It is important for the parents to try and minimise any outward hostility. The Royal College of Psychiatry offer some useful information on this.
If the Service person has moved into Single Living Accomodation, they can’t host their children there overnight. Again, there are a few options which can be explored – the RAF Association offer financial help up to four times a year to finance hotels to see children; the Benevolent Fund offer financial assistance for setting up a home due to these circumstances and SSAFA can help prepare the application and also assist with applying for joint custody to allow the Service person to apply for SFA.
Some units have contact houses which can be used for this purpose but if a welfare emergency arises, these can be re-allocated at very short notice so they can’t always be relied upon.
Pensions on divorce and dissolution of civil partnerships
Pensions should form part of your financial settlement upon divorce. Veterans UK is a good source of information regarding military pensions and how they are delivered. It is important to understand how much the Armed Forces Pension is worth in order to split the pension fairly. GOV.UK provides pension sharing rules through guidance documents of the Armed Forces Pension Schemes (AFPS) and Reserve Forces Pension Schemes (RFPS).
The Forces Pension Society (LINK https://forcespensionsociety.org/) can offer further advice in this area – they have specialist knowledge and it is advisable to make sure all decisions made during this stressful time are fully considered.
If you have children, it is important to ensure long term financial support is agreed between the parents. It is best (and cheaper) for the parents to decide between them what level of maintenance should be paid and this is no different whether you are in the Armed Forces or not. There is a child maintenance calculator available to help calculate this.
If you can’t agree you can get help from the Child Maintenance Service for a fee.
Look after yourself
Ending a marriage or long term relationship is stressful and emotional and you may find you need additional support for your wellbeing.
There is a lot of support available to you as the Serving person or the partner – please take a look at our health and wellbeing pages but also talk to your unit welfare team for support.
If you are in an abusive relationship, our online Health and wellbeing section provides lots of help, advice and places to go for support as a military family member.