By John V. Berry, Esq., www.berrylegal.com
There is a major intersection between family law and security clearance law issues which can arise where one of the spouses is a security clearance holder. It is important understand how they connect. This article talks briefly about this intersection and some of the issues associated with these connections. The major issues that often arises between individuals holding security clearances in the context of family law usually has to do with divorce, custody and domestic violence issues. I will take each of these in turn in this article.
When dealing with family law issues, a family lawyer and/or cleared individuals involved in the underlying family issues should consult with counsel familiar with security clearance law. Generally, we find that security clearance issues come up in the context of family law in the following types of situations:
- Divorce: Divorces between spouses holding security clearance or with one spouse that holds a security clearance can present unique problems. Obviously, divorces include very difficult family and emotional issues and can cause both spouses to occasionally go to war with one another. The problem with doing so is that a bad divorce can cause one, and sometimes both spouses to lose their security clearance. When this occurs, it is not uncommon for both spouses to be laid off or terminated from employment. It is important to avoid contentious family law litigation.
- Custody Issues: Along the lines of divorce, custody issues tend to be one of the most problematic areas where security clearance issues can arise. Even an allegation that is lodged against another spouse for purposes of gaining an advantage during custody proceedings can affect a security clearance. For example, suppose that a spouse alleges that the other spouse left a child in a dangerous situation. Regardless of the outline of the custody litigation, the matter can be reviewed and considered into the context of whether an individual can keep their security clearance.
- Domestic Violence Claims: Along the lines of Divorce, other family or relationship issues can arise in the context of a security clearance. We often see cases where another individual has been issued a Temporary Protective Order (TPO) related to alleged domestic violence. Just the filing of such an order can potentially affect an individual’s security clearance.
Practical Considerations for Family Law Issues and Security Clearances
The following are some times to consider when clearance holders or applications are going through clearance issues.
- Consider Family Income: If the goal of a divorce or other family matter is to leave the family in a sound financial status, work with your family law attorney to consider how a filing can effect another spouse’s security clearance (if they hold one). For instance, some family law practitioners can be aggressive and try to paint the other spouse in as bad a light as possible. While this can help in family court, another problem may arise. A clearance holder spouse, if they are the primary earner for the family, can lose their income if serious allegations come to light. As a result it is critical to consider this issue with respect to spousal and child support issues. A family law lawyer can prevail in a divorce against the primary breadwinner, only to find out that the individual has lost their clearance and job as a result and therefore cannot provide financial support.
- Situations Where Both Spouses Hold Clearances: In the Washington, D.C. area, it is not uncommon for both spouses to hold security clearances. We have seen an aggressive action in divorce cases by one spouse lead to a similar response by another spouse. In such situations, we have seen results were both spouses have lost their security clearances (or they were suspended) and were then terminated. As a result, the parties divorced, but had no income or employment because of the actions taken in the family law courts. It is critical to attempt to avoid such issues.
- Work Cooperatively with Soon to be Ex-Spouse: Where security clearances are involved and there are family financial support requirements, it is very important to make a divorce or other family dispute as civil and professional as possible. The alternative can have major ramifications to the family income and child support when it impacts a security clearance. While divorce can be a very emotional and draining issue that spouses face, it is important to separate while still maintaining each parties’ ability to support their family.
When an individual is facing security clearance issues before a federal agency which also involves a family law component (divorce, etc), it is important to obtain legal advice and potential legal representation in both areas of law. Our law firm advises individuals and family law lawyers in the security clearance process. We can be contacted at www.berrylegal.com or by telephone at (703) 668-0070. Please visit our Facebook page.