Sailor Abandons His Pregnant Wife; Command Won't Help

Ms. Vicki

Dear Ms. Vicki,

I don't know where to turn. While visiting my family for my own baby shower in March, I was issued separation papers and, shortly afterward, divorce papers by my Navy husband.

After I attempted to contact him to try to figure out our future, he changed his phone number.

In April, I contacted a judge advocate general officer who told me to contact my husband's command master chief.

The CMC told me my situation is a civilian matter and that there was absolutely nothing he could do. When I contacted the JAG to update him about the situation, he sent both my husband and the CMC an email and certified copy of a letter that fell on deaf ears.

In June, I delivered a healthy baby boy. Since then, my husband has petitioned the court for custody and support of our son. He has sent a few inconsistent payments and he has yet to ask about the welfare of our son.

I have tried to push everything aside by finding a full-time job (at 8 months' pregnant) and starting work two weeks after delivery because I felt like I kept hitting a dead end when I tried to seek support. 

The reason I am contacting you is that I honestly do not know where to turn. I tried to take care of our son on my own. I returned to my mother's house and accepted a low-paying job because the hours fit perfectly with the hours of operation with my son's daycare. 

After countless hours of researching, I know that abandonment is punishable under Article 92 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. I know that my husband has been receiving Basic Allowance for Housing on our behalf. He just purchased a new vehicle and a five-bedroom house.

Please, my son and I need help. We have needed help for a very long time and if there is ANYTHING that you can do or suggest, I would be greatly appreciative.

-- Abandoned Wife

Dear Abandoned Wife,

My heart goes out to you. I know this must be very difficult and disheartening for you. You married someone who did a complete 180-degree turn. Moreover, he is still getting away with the same behavior.

I'm sad to say that I hear about this all the time from spouses who are abandoned by a service member who has moved on with their lives and the command won't intervene.

You need legal advice. Even if it's a free consultation from a lawyer who is familiar with the military, you need to talk to a professional. 

Next, seek the help of a Victim's Advocate (VA). The Victim's Advocate is located with Fleet and Family Services.

They should work with the command to tell them your husband has abandoned his family.

Then, you can file a complaint with the Navy's Office of the Inspector General. They will investigate your complaint that your husband is receiving unauthorized BAH. Or you can contact your congressional representative, who will investigate your concern and follow up with you.

This would be quicker if your husband's commanders would get involved. You are correct in stating that this is punishable under the UCMJ, and the command will get in trouble for ignoring this issue. 

As you can see, you have to continue to fight this issue to receive the support you deserve. I'm so sorry that everything bad appears to be happening at once and you feel like you have lost control of your life and your finances.

Hang in there, and let me know what happens.

-- Ms. Vicki

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