A divorce is always a complex undertaking with many considerations that are unique to the couple in question. While many divorcing couples may have concerns about finances, child custody and the division of assets, having a job that requires a security clearance introduces an additional concern to the proceedings.
It is essential for spouses to ensure that their security clearance will not be negatively affected by the divorce. This could happen if, for example, an emotional or vengeful former spouse divulges information with the aim of destroying the clearance. In addition, an employee could accidentally jeopardize their clearance through their own behaviors before, during or after the divorce.
This is a complicated area that requires consultation with experienced family law attorneys, but the following are some of the most important factors to keep in mind.
Reporting The Divorce
Depending on the spouse’s specific clearance and the nature of the divorce proceedings, it may be necessary to disclose the divorce to a security officer. In many cases, this can be accomplished via the filing of a Standard Form 86, or SF-86.
Keep in mind that an employee’s compliance with their divorce proceedings, such as custody orders, child support and alimony, are important factors in determining the credibility and trustworthiness assessments that comprise security clearance investigations.
Therefore, it is important to follow court orders related to the divorce exactly as stated. Failing to comply with court orders in any way, however small, could have a negative impact on a person’s security clearance.
Routine reviews of security clearances may require an interview with the employee’s estranged spouse, which could prompt another review.
Financial Issues In Divorces
Another area in which a divorce could impact a person’s security clearance is that of finances. Getting divorced can be very expensive, and if this pushes an employee into debt or bankruptcy, it could be cause for concern in a clearance investigation.
There are some issues within a divorce that may require self-reporting on the part of the employee. These include:
- Allegations that the spouse has hidden income or assets
- Allegations of adultery, particularly if it involves foreign nationals
- Allegations of domestic violence
- Custody evaluations, particularly if they involve any third-party psychological evaluations or statements
Not all allegations must be self-reported, so it is advisable to discuss the case with an experienced attorney to determine the best way forward.
Protecting Your Security Clearance In A Divorce
In a contentious divorce, there is always the risk of an angry former spouse doing something to jeopardize an employee’s security clearance. For example, they may try to contact their security officer to share information that may or may not be true that could impact their security clearance. They may also say something unhelpful during an interview is part of a routine review.
The best way for employees to reduce the risk of a divorce affecting their security clearance is to ensure they comply with every divorce-related court order and keep communications with the former spouse and their associates as civil as possible. If there are any concerns about the former spouse’s potential behavior, it may be wise to communicate with them only through attorneys.
When filling out Standard Form 86, employees will be prompted to report any concerns they might have about their divorce and the reliability of their former spouse. This is an opportunity to relay concerns about their motivations and leave it up to the security officer or employer to determine if they are trustworthy.
In addition, it is necessary to provide the former spouse’s contact information to facilitate their meetings with investigators. Being as open as possible about the details of the divorce can help employees to protect their security clearance.
Seek Assistance From A Family Law Attorney
In any divorce, it is important to choose your words and actions carefully, and this is particularly true when a security clearance is involved. For proper guidance, it is beneficial to speak with a family law attorney experienced in divorces that involve security clearances. Ideally, the first consultation with an attorney should be held before submitting an SF-86 form.
Governmental agencies recognize that divorce is not unusual and is therefore not used against an employee. However, in cases where a security clearance is involved, they must perform due diligence surrounding matters including finances and extramarital affairs to ensure that sensitive information does not end up in the wrong hands.
Discuss Your Case With Maryland Family Law Attorneys
If you are preparing for, or are in the process of divorcing, take the positive steps to prevent it from affecting your employment prospects. Protect yourself, your security clearance and your job by discussing your concerns with the experienced Maryland family law attorneys at SIEGELLAW today.