Most people going through the divorce process do not consider the effect that a divorce may have on their careers. Unfortunately, divorce can sometimes impact an employee’s security clearance. Divorcees who have jobs that require a security clearance should consult with a family law attorney who is knowledgeable about this special situation and knows how best to protect their interests.
Can Divorce Impact An Employee’s Security Clearance?
There are a few things to consider when determining the amount of risk that a particular employee may face regarding their security clearance. In most cases, the divorce process itself will not affect an employee’s security clearance. However, the employee or their former spouse may do something that could ultimately cost the employee his or her clearance and potentially a job.
In What Ways Can Divorce Affect A Person’s Security Clearance?
Employees must maintain a balancing act when going through a divorce to protect both their security clearance and their personal interests. There are several ways in which a divorce could affect an employee’s security clearance, including the following:
- An employee goes through the divorce process before they require a security clearance. In this instance, an employee must trust their former spouse not to sabotage their chances of gaining that clearance.
- An employee takes certain actions during a divorce that accidentally destroys their own security clearance.
- An employee has a security clearance before a divorce and has to trust their former spouse not to destroy that clearance by revealing sensitive information out of spite, vengeance, anger or emotion.
How Can Employees Protect Their Security Clearance And Their Own Interests?
Similar to a marriage, a divorce is a life event that generally needs to be reported to the employee’s security officer. Although the government is not interested in the details of the divorce, all legal proceedings that involve federal employees must be considered during security clearance investigations. An employee’s adherence to the legalities of a divorce, including child support, custody arrangements and alimony, may also be considered when the government determines an employee’s trustworthiness and reliability.
How much information needs to be disclosed to a security officer will depend on the circumstances of the divorce and the employee’s actual clearance. Not all federal employees have the same level of clearance, which may or may not be affected by a divorce. There are special circumstances associated with the divorce process that may require a person to self-report, such as allegations of hiding income or assets, allegations of domestic abuse, the involvement of mental health care providers or custody evaluations in which a third-party custody evaluator makes concerning statements about the employee.
There is always a risk that an angry former spouse could put an employee’s security clearance in jeopardy by contacting their security officer, or another person who may relay the information back to the security officer. In addition, a routine review of an employee’s security clearance will often include an interview with an estranged spouse. To minimize the risk of a divorce affecting a security clearance, employees should do their best to comply with all divorce-related court orders to prevent non-compliance from negatively impacting their security clearance.
Along with speaking to a security officer, employees going through the divorce process should fill out Standard Form 86 (SF86). This form provides employees with an opportunity to put down on paper any concerns that they may have about divorce and the reliability or trustworthiness of a former spouse. Provide contact information for the former spouse so that investigators can easily contact him or her. The more open an employee is about a divorce, the more successful an employee will be in protecting his or her security clearance.
Importance Of Speaking With A Family Law Attorney
When dealing with divorce proceedings that involve an employee with a security clearance, it is important to be cautious about saying or doing the wrong thing. One of the best ways that divorcees can protect their security clearance and personal interests is by speaking with a family law attorney experienced with these issues. It is important to remember that getting a divorce is not frowned upon by government agencies; however, these agencies must perform due diligence to ensure that sensitive information does not fall into the wrong hands.
Schedule A Consultation With The Family Law Attorneys At SIEGELLAW
Federal employees, just like everyone else, are prone to certain vulnerabilities. Financial constraints, child custody issues, alimony disagreements and other aspects of divorce can be stressors that put professionals with security clearances at risk. There is also a chance that a former spouse could reveal something that affects an employee’s security clearance.
Employees that want to protect themselves, their employment and their security clearance should consider speaking with an experienced family law attorney about their concerns. For more information, or to schedule a consultation, contact the legal team at SIEGELLAW.