If you are married to a non-military member, and/or you have children, your spouse and children are considered to be "dependents" by the military.
The military requires you to provide adequate support (which includes housing) to your dependents. Because of this, if you are married, you receive a housing allowance, at the "with dependent" rate, even if you are living in the single dormitories/barracks.
Because living in the barracks/dormitories is mandatory during basic training and job-school, and because your dependents are not allowed to travel to basic training and/or job school (unless the job-school is over 20 weeks long at a single location), at government expense, during these periods you live in the barracks/dormitories, and receive BAH for the area that your dependents reside.
When you move to your first permament duty station, the rules change. Your dependents are allowed to move there at government expense. If they don't move there, that is considered your choice. In such cases, you receive BAH (at the "with dependent" rate) for the amount of your duty station, regardless of where your dependent is actually living.
As long as you are still married, to give up BAH, you would have to reside in on-base family housing. However, unless your dependents move to your duty location, you are not authorized to reside in on-base family housing, because the rules say to qualify, your dependents must be living with you.
If there is extra space available in the barracks/dormitories, you are allowed to live there, and still receive your BAH. However, now that the military is trying to give all single people living in the dormitories their own room, most bases do not have any extra space available in their dormitories. Therefore, as a married person who has voluntarily elected not to be accompanied by their dependents, you will likely be required to live off-base. You will receive BAH for the area you are assigned to. If you are allowed to live in the dormitory/barracks, space available, you must be prepared to move out, with little or no notice, in case the space is needed (although most commanders/first sergeants will try to give at least two weeks notice, if possible).
The rules change for overseas assignments. If you are assigned overseas, and elect not to be accompanied by your dependents, you can live in the barracks/dormitories on base, and still receive BAH in order to provide adequate housing support in the states for your dependent(s).
Other Parts to this Series:
- Part 1 -- Choosing a Military Service
- Part 2 -- Meeting the Recruiter
- Part 3 -- The Enlistment Process and Job Selection
- Part 4 -- Enlistment Contracts and Enlistment Incentives
- Part 5 -- Military Pay
- Part 7 -- Chow Halls and Food Allowance
- Part 8 -- Education Programs
- Part 9 -- Leave (Vacation), and Job Training
- Part 10 -- Assignments
- Part 11 -- Promotions
- Part 12 -- Military Medical Care
- Part 13 -- Commissaries and Exchanges
- Part 14 -- Morale, Welfare, & Recreation (MWR) Activities