Dual-military couples in the Department of the Air Force now have more flexibility to decide their next steps after childbirth or adoption.

For couples in which one active duty airman or guardian is married to another, the military is offering either person up to a year after their child arrives to ask to leave the Air Force or Space Force. The new policy began March 1.

Only one member of the couple can request separation for pregnancy, childbirth or caregiving reasons, while the other must fulfill his or her service commitment. They can still apply to get out based on other voluntary issues like hardship, the Air Force said in a March 8 press release.

“Caregiver separation and childbirth separation give both parents more time to learn how to balance family and career, allowing them to continue to contribute to the [Department of the Air Force] mission before making a decision to separate,” the release added.

Airmen and guardians can apply to leave as soon as the day after a child is born or adopted, though they can’t depart later than 12 months after that paperwork is filed.

“Waivers of active duty service commitments will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis,” the service said.

Only female troops were allowed that 12-month window before the rule change. Another past version of the Air Force policy let women request separation before giving birth, but not after.

The update follows a series of other changes in the Department of the Air Force aimed at keeping women and families in the service longer, and making life easier for members who may feel pulled between personal and professional obligations. Those decisions can be more challenging when two spouses are both juggling military service commitments and careers.

“It’s vital that we continue to find creative ways to develop and retain talented and skilled airmen and guardians,” Air Force personnel boss Lt. Gen. Brian Kelly said in the release.

Rachel Cohen is the editor of Air Force Times. She joined the publication as its senior reporter in March 2021. Her work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Frederick News-Post (Md.), Air and Space Forces Magazine, Inside Defense, Inside Health Policy and elsewhere.

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