About 75 percent of military spouse attorneys who took a recent survey are sitting on substantial student loan debt -- and for 35 percent of respondents, that debt plays a role in whether or not they decide to move with their service member, according to a new report.
The report and survey, compiled by the Military Spouse JD Network (MSJDN), a bar association for military spouses, was released this week. MSJDN surveyed almost 400 military spouse attorneys nationwide on a variety of topics including demographics, law license status and employment.
MSJDN is perhaps best known in the larger spouse community for its work on the spouse attorney license issue. Twenty five state bar associations and the U.S. Virgin Islands currently have rules making it easier for a military spouse who has passed the bar elsewhere to practice law after a military move, in large part thanks to MSJDN's work. A map of their current efforts and victories is on their website.
According to the survey less than 1 percent of military spouse attorneys completed law school with no student loan debt, while 44 percent still owe more than $75,000 and 6 percent currently owe more than $250,000.
That debt doesn't just impact whether or not these spouses choose to relocate with their service member, the results show. About one-third of respondents said it has an impact on their decision to stay in the military with its for-sure income at all. About half said that at some point in their military spouse journey they have chosen to not relocate with their service member.
Although household income varies widely among spouse attorneys, most make over $100,000 annually. However, the survey also showed that the majority of spouse attorneys are married to 0-3 or 0-4 officers, making it likely that their total household income, which includes Basic Allowance for Housing, would be close to or over $100,000 anyway. And that could mean spouse attorneys are "being paid below the national average for attorney," the survey says.
Most spouses who took the survey also have children -- with the vast majority of those under six years old.
MSJDN currently has over 600 members, but respondents did not need to be members to take the survey.