Married Couples In The Military

Dual Military Couples And Join Spouse Programs

Military Marriage
••• The U.S. Army/Flickr

There are about 84,000 military-married-to-military couples in the United States Armed Forces. These days, it seems that more and more married couples are joining the military together and getting married shortly thereafter basic and advanced training. They face many challenges that aren't faced by a military member married to a civilian, but also several advantages. The military does not guarantee to assign married couples together, however, they will try.  


Each of the services have an assignment program called "JOIN SPOUSE." Basically, under this program, the military will try as hard as they can to station military spouses at the same base or within 100 miles of each other. Note there is no guarantee -- the military just agrees to try. The services will not create a new slot for JOIN SPOUSE. There has to be an existing slot in the rank/job that the member(s) can be assigned against.

DOD-wide, about 80 percent of military-married-to-military couples are assigned within 100 miles of each other. That sounds pretty good, until you realize that means 20 percent of military couples are not assigned close to each other. There are some stories of couples who never get stationed together, however, these tend to be members of separate services with one being Air Force and one being Navy for instance. 

One of the primary factors to consider when contemplating a military-couple marriage is if both members are in the same service. Obviously, it's easier for the services to assign couples together when both are in the same branch. For one thing, it takes less coordination, as only one branch assignment division is involved. Additionally, there aren't that many Air Force bases and Marine Corps bases that are close together. So, marrying someone in your same branch of service obviously increases your chance of a successful JOIN SPOUSE assignment.

In order for JOIN SPOUSE to work, both members must apply. If only one member applies for a JOIN SPOUSE, the assignment system won't process it. Then it's up to the military to determine who should move (or whether both couples should move), based on the needs of the service and funding constraints.

Time in service applies as well. In general, in order for a first-term member (a military member on his/her first enlistment), assigned to a CONUS (Continental United States) base, to move overseas, he/she must have 12 months time-on-station. In order for the first term member to move from one CONUS base to another, he/she must 24 months time-on-station.

Typically newly wed couples new to the military who live on different bases as their first tour assignment, may not live together for a few years until they complete their assignment.  However, if they enter into JOIN SPOUSE and apply for an overseas billet together, the likelihood of that transfer in a few years will be more possible for the couple to serve together.



Military couples stationed together can live off-base and receive a housing allowance, or can give up the housing allowance and live free in on-base family housing, just as members married to a civilian can. If there are no other dependents (children), each member is treated as "single" (for housing allowance purposes), and each will receive the single-rate Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) for their rank and assignment location. If there are children, one member receives the with-dependent rate, and the other member receives the single rate.

In most cases, the couples choose the senior-ranking member to receive the "with dependent" rate, as it means more money.

If there are no dependents, each member is considered "single" (as far as housing allowance) when not stationed together. For example, if a married couple (with no children) join the military together, neither will receive a housing allowance while undergoing basic training and job training (because each one is living in the barracks at basic and job training locations). If there are dependents (children), one of the member's would receive a with-dependent housing allowance while in basic/job training, in order to provide a household for the dependents (Note: This scenario is unlikley, as it requires a very-hard-to-get waiver for a couple with children to both join the military).

Another example: The Markets (both PFCs in the Army) are assigned together at an Army Post in Texas. They have no children, and are living off-base. Both are receiving single-rate housing allowance. One of the members, Sally gets orders for a 12-month remote (unaccompanied) tour to Korea. While in Korea, Sally loses her housing allowance (because she is living in the barracks there). John, still stationed in Texas and living in their off-base house while she is gone, will continue to receive his single-rate housing allowance.

Family Separation Allowance

Family Separation Allowance (currently $250 per month) is normally paid anytime a military member is separated from his/her dependents for longer than 30 days, due to military orders. For example, members with dependents attending basic training and job training (if the job training is less than 20 weeks and dependents are not authorized to relocate to the training base), receive $250 per month, beginning 30 days after separation.

The same applies to military-married-to-military, except:

  • (1) The members must be residing together immediately prior to the departure(2) Only one member can receive the allowance. Payment shall be made to the member whose orders resulted in the separation. If both members receive orders requiring departure on the same day, then payment will go to the senior member.

Care of Children (Dependents)

Military couples with children must develop a "family care plan" that details exactly what the care arrangements are in the event that both members must deploy. Failure to develop and maintain a workable family care plan can result in discharge. Complete details in our article, What About the Children?