Military couples are face many problems that can lead to divorce. In 2001, the divorce rate for military families was 2.6 percent. As of 2011, it's 3.7 percent. As troops draw down and come home, the fear is that the divorce rate will increase.
More families are being reunited and they aren't used to being together. There are many stressors that are unique to military couples, and many of them aren't prepared to deal with it.
Christie Pickard has been married to her husband, Jamey Pickard, for eighteen years. He's in the Army Reserves, and has been deployed three times. Pickard says deployment is almost expected now among active duty and reserve families. That's often when relationships crack.
"The third deployment, the last deployment he was on was the hardest. To me it was the worst," she said.
Unlike the Pickards, many couples don't survive multiple deployments. The military divorce rate reached it's highest level since 1999, with about 30,000 marriages ending in 2011.
The problem is two-fold.
Number one: challenges during deployment.
"Some days you're not going to talk them, some days you're not going to hear from them, some days you're going to be lonely," said Pickard.
Two: challenges couples face upon return. It's what the Pickards affectionately refer to as "re-entry".
"One of the things that a lot of the soldiers do is shut down. They don't want to talk about what happened and what went on, and they're angry," said Pickard.
She says couples have to get to know each other all over again.
"So they're not able to deal with their issues, and you're not prepared to be a support system for them."
Birmingham attorney Wendy Crew has noticed the trend and says military divorces usually come with unique circumstances.
One of the biggest hurdles is how to approach child custody issues. Crew says she would not ask a judge to deny custody based on active duty status.
However, "The challenges are, after a divorce, for the non military spouse to facilitate visitation or time sharing with a child when a military parent is overseas, or in Alaska, or on a base in another part of the country."
Then there's the financial aspect of a military divorce.
"Military pensions are a unique issue that are very complicated. You also have children that even though their parents are divorced, the child of a military parent will still have access to commissary and other advantages, that the non military spouse may not have," said Crew.
Crew says couples wanting a divorce should find an attorney who specializes specifically in matrimonial issues. But Pickards hope is that fewer military couples will reach that point. Support is key.
"Sometimes that's all you need. You just need to say this really stinks and I am not doing well with it, to somebody that really understands."