The Foreign Service Journal - March 2018

40 MARCH 2018 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL Donna Scaramastra Gorman is the Journal ’s as- sociate editor. A writer whose work has appeared in Time Magazine , Newsweek , the Washington Post and the Christian Science Monitor , she is the spouse of a Diplomatic Security agent. She has lived in Amman, Moscow, Yerevan, Almaty and Beijing, and now resides with her family in Washington, D.C. To write this article, she spoke with spouses and employees, all of whom wished to remain anonymous. Divorce is difficult enough when you’re living a “normal” life in the States. What happens when you’re posted overseas? BY DONNA SCARAMASTRA GORMAN T hey were only a year into their third overseas tour when he broke the news: he wanted a divorce. The next day, while she was trying to process the news, he told her he’d found a mediator and was ready to start divorce proceedings via Skype. “My head was spinning,” she says. “I was nowhere near where he was in the process.” According to the Family Liaison Office, nobody in the State Department tracks the numbers, so it is impossible to say for cer- tain howmany Foreign Service spouses face divorce while posted overseas. But overnight, Jennifer [all names have been changed] had become one of this unknown number of spouses in crisis. And what she found—as did a half-dozen other EFMs interviewed for this article—was an embassy and an institution that were wholly unprepared to support her through the process. Life Turned Upside Down “It was somismanaged. I felt like there was no one at the embassy onmy side,” she says. Although everyone at the small embassy knewwhat was going on, she says nobody contacted her in an official capacity: not the community liaison office coordina- tor, not the regional medical officer, not the deputy chief of mission. Looking back now, she says, “I felt so estranged from every- thing normal. The divorce rate is higher in these kinds of jobs. And no one talks about it. I had nobody to connect with, nobody who understood what I was going through.” A friend at post tracked down a packet about divorce that was published by the Family Liaison Office, and she read it cover to cover. It was helpful, she says, but she still didn’t know where to start. The questions seemed impossible to answer: How would she set up her new life, and where? Where would the children go ON FOREIGN SERVICE FAMILIES Surviving Divorce in the Foreign Service FOCUS