Transitioning out of the Armed Forces FAQs

Leaving Service is an important part of military life, both for the Service person and their family. It can be a difficult period of adjustment, but there is a wealth of support available. The Armed Forces Families Federations have answered some of the most commonly asked questions around transition, and you can find further support from a range of organisations at the bottom of the page.

What is meant by ‘transition’?

In this context, ‘transition’ is the process Service leavers and their families go through in preparation for leaving the Armed Forces. Ideally, this preparation will be happening throughout your time as a military family.

Why is it important to think about transition now?

With all the uncertainty of Service life, transition is the only certainty – one day your Service person will leave the Armed Forces. Research shows that the earlier a family plans for their future, the less stressful transition is likely to be. It’s never too early.

While you know your Service person will leave the Armed Forces one day, they might end up leaving sooner than you think, perhaps due to medical discharge. If you have started to think about life after the military and make provision for it, unexpected doesn’t have to mean unplanned.

How is ‘transition’ different to ‘resettlement’?

Service leavers are entitled to various forms of support during their ‘resettlement’, which is a finite period of time leading up to and soon after their final date of Service. It focuses on employment for the Service leaver and is led by the Career Transition Partnership (CTP).

Your Service leaver can speak to their chain of command or Resettlement Officer (mostly based at Education Centres) at any time to find out more about resettlement entitlement.

The only mandatory element of resettlement for a Service leaver is the Resettlement Advisory Brief (RAB), which is usually delivered by a Resettlement Officer. The RAB is a comprehensive guide to what a Service leaver needs to consider once they have decided to leave the Armed Forces. Without attending a RAB, a service leaver cannot access the Career Transition Partnership, so it’s a vital first step in getting the support they’re entitled to.

What do I need to consider for my family’s transition?

There’s a lot to consider when planning for life after the Armed Forces. It is not a linear process and each family will have different priorities. Research shows that involving family members in transition can only be a good thing. Most families will need to think about:

  • Where will we live?
  • Where will our children go to school?
  • Where will we work?
  • How do I register with a new doctor or dentist?
  • How will I make friends and build a support network outside of the Armed Forces community?
  • What support will my Service person get when they leave?


Service personnel are entitled to a raft of information, guidance and support through the Armed Forces, including the Resettlement Advisory Brief and access to the Career Transition Partnership (CTP).

Exactly what they are entitled to will vary depending on factors like how long they have served. A Service leaver’s chain of command and Resettlement officers will be able to signpost them to the right information and guide them through the process.

The Families Federation websites provide a wealth of information on specific issues, such as housing, education and childcare, employment and training, health, and advice for Foreign & Commonwealth Service personnel. Links to the Family Federation websites for each branch of the Armed Forces can be found at the bottom of this page.

In October 2018, the Government announced that they will be establishing a new Defence Transition Service that will deliver specialist support for Service personnel who are most likely to face challenges as they adjust to civilian life. These individuals will be offered unique solutions to the challenges they face, including help with housing or employment. This service will develop over time, and more information will become available as it grows.

What support will our family get when my Service person leaves the Armed Forces?

There is very little guidance currently aimed specifically at families in transition. Many military charities extend their services to family members, so it is worth asking about your own situation if you are contacting a charity for help. Family members are encouraged to attend the JSHAO Civilian Housing Brief and the Financial Aspects of Resettlement Brief that Service leavers are made aware of. More information about these can be found on the Government and CTP websites.

SSAFA run a Transition Mentoring scheme that is designed to support Service leavers and their families as they leave the Armed Forces. Family members can access this service in their own right or alongside their Service Leaver. For more information about the scheme, visit the SSAFA website.

Is transition the same wherever you’re posted?

For those Service leavers looking to access their resettlement entitlement from their last tour of duty overseas, forward planning is even more crucial than for someone on a UK-based final posting. As a family, you should consider the implications of serving overseas and trying to access resettlement at the same time.

UK-based Service leavers will access much of their resettlement and Career Transition Partnership support via their local Regional Resettlement Centre (RRC). There is also an RRC in Germany and one in Catterick that serves postings in Canada, Cyprus, Gibraltar, Naples, embassies and all other locations. Get in touch with CTP for more information.

Access to services is also more limited when serving in isolated appointments such as Defence Attaché or on Loan Service. In these circumstances Service leavers are advised to start their resettlement preparation prior to deployment overseas.

For information and guidance about using Learning Credits and accessing resettlement while serving in remote overseas locations, you should contact resettlement and education staff well in advance of moving overseas.

What about leaving unexpectedly?

If you leave with only a short period of Service or because the Service person is discharged, there are still programmes to help.

Future Horizons is the CTP programme to support Early Service Leavers (less than 4 years Service) with future employment, and, in cases of medical discharge, specialised support is provided through Personnel Recovery Units and Centres, which also involve the family.

Unit welfare staff should be able to offer advice and support and most Armed Forces charities will offer support to you having served as little as one day.

Where else can I find information, advice or support?

The Families Federation’s websites contain useful information and suggest links to other subject-specific sources of information, advice or support.

More general help with transition can also be found at:

The MOD Service Leaver’s Guide
Career Transition Partnership
CTP Future Horizons
Personnel Recovery Units
The Army website
The Naval Families Federation
The Army Families Federation
The RAF Families Federation
The Veterans’ Welfare Service
Veterans UK
The Scottish Government
The Welsh Government
The Armed Forces Covenant

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