We’ve written before about how the person you choose to love can certainly affect your security clearance eligibility. That overseas romance, the Russian mail-order bride, the vindictive ex – spouses or cohabitants are often key players in security clearance denials and revocations. Family status (marriage, kids) are frequently listed early in the descriptions of security clearance appeals decisions published by the Defense Office of Hearings and Appeals. The whole person concept is key to clearance determinations – and the reality is, your family is critical leverage that can be used for or against you.

True or False: Spousal Issues Can Be Mitigated by Divorce or Separation

A common topic that comes up for security clearance holders facing a clearance denial or revocation due to spousal abuse (criminal conduct) is the argument that the spouse was also partially to blame, and the issue is now mitigated because the relationship is over. That may be the case if significant time has passed. But one security clearance holder who found himself facing a security clearance denial due to both alcohol abuse and criminal conduct related to multiple domestic disputes discovered the issue with mitigating criminal conduct that had occurred just two months after submitting his SF-86.

The applicant’s first domestic incident occurred in 2016, after the applicant ‘pretended’ to stab his wife while he was intoxicated and in an effort to end a fight, according to the applicant. The police were called but no charges were filed, but the applicant received a domestic violence protective order and had his firearms confiscated.

Fast forward a few years and in 2020, the applicant reported an incident where he drank 8-10 beers at a family dinner, had his wife drive him home due to his intoxication, and then proceeded to start fixing a light fixture in his home (because electrical work eight beers in really finishes off the buzz). The applicant’s wife came downstairs and told him to stop. He refused, so she allegedly began to break some of his things and pulled him down from the ladder. The applicant then threw his wife down and punched her until he broke her nose – all of this is outlined in the DOHA appeal. The police were called and the applicant was arrested and charged with one first degree felony and two misdemeanor offenses – all of the charges remained pending as the applicant proceeded through the security clearance process.

False: You Can’t Blame Your Spouse for Your Domestic Assault Problem

The applicant sought to mitigate the issues by noting he gave up alcohol and was no longer with his spouse. The applicant had several character witnesses, including two friends and family members who noted, “his actions, although inexcusable, were not unprovoked.” The applicant provided information about his criminal case and was forthcoming in the investigation.

There are obviously a lot of issues here – but key ones around reliability and trustworthiness along with pattern of behavior. It is going to be incredibly hard to mitigate a criminal incident that occurred following the submission of the SF-86. There simply isn’t enough passage of time to be able to show whatever caused the incident – be it a spouse or alcohol or something else – has been mitigated.

The security clearance process isn’t for perfect people. But it is for people who have displayed key changes in behavior. Taking responsibility for your actions is important, but allowing for passage of time is one of the few ways to show an actual change in behavior – simply separating yourself from circumstances will not. There will always be beer, there will always be lights to fix, and there will always be someone who will try to tell you you’re making bad life choices and you need to get down from the ladder.


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Lindy Kyzer is the director of content at ClearanceJobs.com. Have a conference, tip, or story idea to share? Email lindy.kyzer@clearancejobs.com. Interested in writing for ClearanceJobs.com? Learn more here.. @LindyKyzer