Does Contract Marriage in the Military Actually Happen?

contract marriage military
Contract marriage is illegal, but it comes with financial incentive for service members.

Within the military, contract marriages have always been a thing. It’s talked about on the down-low, and since marriage is a “private matter”, it’s tough to prove its existence.

What is a contract marriage?

A contract marriage is when two people enter into a marriage in order to receive the (sometimes hefty) benefits afforded to military spouses. And it’s good on both sides.

For service members, when you’re married, the military provides separate housing and that means sayonara to living in the crowded barracks.

Being married to a soldier means your housing and healthcare are pretty much taken care of, plus you can use the commissary and other military programs like employment assistance. What’s more is if the civilian isn’t an American citizen, they’ll be on their way to a green card after marrying a service member.

Read more about these benefits in our article on why people in the military get married so young.

Since it’s a sweet deal for both soldier and civilian, you can see why it happens. It’s also illegal.

A contract marriage is one of those things we assume doesn’t happen anymore when in fact, it’s more of an “open secret”. We know it goes on but everyone just turns a blind eye. Plus, how are you supposed to go up to someone and accuse them that their marriage is fake anyway?

Reasons Not to Get a Contract Marriage

Many people who enter a contact marriage don’t understand the full weight of their decision. Without looking too far into the future, all they can see are the immediate benefits and none of the repercussions.

The truth is, a contract marriage has mostly downsides.

Again, it’s illegal.

While yes, a contract marriage is hard to prove since it’s a “private matter”, if someone like your commander is suspicious, you could be vetted and prosecuted. Say goodbye to your military career after breaking the law.

You’re in a loveless marriage.

Anyone who’s married knows that making a relationship work even when you do love the other person is a tough job. Getting married to someone for monetary gain or to avoid the barracks is all but a disaster waiting to happen.

Good luck if you meet someone else.

If you’re married in a contract marriage and meet someone else you’re actually interested in a long term relationship with… well, you can just imagine how messy that could end up.

Even if you’re not looking for romance, be ready to keep all your adult pursuits on the down-low, because in the eyes of the military, adultery is a no-no.

You can get turned in.

Apparently, your spouse can turn you in once they figure out that this contract marriage thing isn’t benefiting them as much as they thought it would. Since you’re the one in the military, you’ll suffer most of the blow since your benefits are the ones you’ve both been relying on.

The Reality

Long story short, contract marriage in the military always has been and probably always will be a thing. Hopefully the fact that people are getting married later than ever before in general, means that even contract marriages are happening less frequently.

Regardless, a contract marriage is not a good idea, even if it seems that way in the moment. Wait until you actually find a partner that’s right for you and reap the benefits when the time comes.

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