The Foreign Service Journal - December 2013 - page 17

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL
|
DECEMBER 2013
17
FS KNOW-HOW
A Practical Guide to International Divorce
in the Foreign Service
BY E L I ZABETH F I TZS I MMONS AND R I CHARD SE I PERT
R
egardless of how common
divorce is in the Foreign Service,
when you go through it you feel
like the first person who has
ever tried to navigate the bureaucracy of
the State Department.
Dissolving your marriage while simul-
taneously being an effective diplomat or
specialist, taking care of your kids, writing
employee evaluation reports or bidding,
and processing the emotional effects of
this massive life change (whether the
divorce was your idea or not, it is a huge
adjustment) can feel absolutely over-
whelming. The experience can also be
intensely lonely.
We both know, because we’ve been
there. We had naively imagined there was
some State Department affinity group
for divorcing FSOs. Instead, we began to
utilize our own Foreign Service networks.
“I heard you served with someone who
shares custody internationally. Can you
send me their e-mail? Didn’t your former
boss go through a divorce trial in Vir-
ginia? Do you think I can call her?”
But we survived to tell the tale, and
promised ourselves in the darkest hours
Elizabeth Fitzsimmons, currently counselor for public affairs in Sofia, joined the Foreign
Service in 1995. (At the time of her swearing-in, she was the youngest member of the Service.)
She has served in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Cambodia, India and Washington, D.C. In 2009 the
International Women’s Forum named her a fellow, one of only 25 women in the world to be
so honored. She is married to Diplomatic Security Special Agent Richard Seipert, and the two
have five children.
Richard Seipert is currently serving as assistant regional security officer in Sofia. He joined
the Bureau of Diplomatic Security in 2003, after a 13-year career in the U.S. Air Force, and has
also served in Egypt, India, Iraq, Pakistan, Miami and Washington, D.C.
of our divorce sagas that when we got
to the end of that long and bumpy road,
we would pay it forward by sharing the
lessons we learned the hard way. Our
hope is that we can save colleagues from
the mistakes, delays and hassles that
were the unfortunate effects of wander-
ing blind down the dark alley of Foreign
Service divorce.
Still, right off the bat we want to offer
the caveat that this article is no substitute
for legal advice or consultation with a
financial planner. We’re not attorneys,
and our advice may be wrong, so please
don’t sue us!
That said, we do believe our 10-step
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