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Military service and child custody require special planning

Child custody matters are difficult for any family to handle; however, military families have some added considerations that must be addressed. It is imperative that all service members and the individuals they share children with understand these important points.

The nature of military life means that the respective parent has to have plans in place for the children if they aren't in a relationship with the child's other parent any longer. This ensures that the children are cared for in the event the member has to leave suddenly or for a lengthy deployment.

A Family Care Plan is required

If you are considered a single parent by the military, you will need a Family Care Plan in place that outlines what will happen with your children. One component of this plan is that you must have a guardian in place for your children. This is done using a special power of attorney designation. There are two types of guardians that you must appoint.

  • Short-term guardian: A short-term guardian is a person who lives near the base, can pick up the children quickly and isn't in the military. This can be a family member or friend.
  • Long-term guardian: The long-term guardian is someone who will care for the children for prolonged periods. They can't be in the military, but they aren't required to live near the base. If they can't get the children right away, the short-term guardian will care for the kids until the long-term guardian can arrive.

The guardians should have a clear plan for providing for the children. They will need access to the child's medical insurance cards and need to know about their education plans. Your family care plan is filed with your local command and your Commanding Officer must approve it.

Planning for communication

When you are getting the child custody agreement set for the kids, you need to clarify terms of communication for times when you are deployed. It might not be possible for you to fly to see the children or to have them come to you. In these cases, you will rely primarily on virtual visits to communicate. This can include chats on video, instant messages, texts and emails.

Remember that you will have to work around the child's schedule when you plan for the virtual visits. This might mean that you have to wake up in the middle of the night, but you can't expect the kids to do the same. Sometimes, scheduling the visits is challenging but you and your ex will need to work as a team.

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