4 Child Custody Issues Divorced Military Parents Need To Be Aware Of

Getting a divorce as a military member can be a complicated process. One of your main concerns may be the well-being and custody of any children that you may have. It is important to realize that as a service member, you still have rights and obligations regarding your children. 

Custody Issues Related to Relocation

Historically, during divorce, custody of children has been awarded to the civilian parent as opposed to the military parent. This is because the civilian parent is often seen as a more stable choice. But recently, the benefits of being a military dependent have made it so service members also have a good chance on gaining joint or full custody over their children. If you are in the military and want custody over your children, it is important to lay out these benefits and show a judge how military life will create stability for your children while providing them with many options in life. 

Whether you have full custody, joint custody, or visitation rights, it is important to include in your settlement what you will do if you are reassigned to another part of the country. Taking your child out of the state you are currently living in can result in changes to the custody arrangement. You should include how visitation will be arranged if and when you relocate, with such details as who will pay for flights and how much time will be spent with each parent. 

Custody Issues Related to Deployment 

Military members are expected to file a Family Care Plan with their commanding officer if they have custody of a dependent child. This plan should include details about who will take care of a child during an emergency deployment as well as how the child will be transported to their caregiver and how financial support will be given to the child. 

This document does not supersede custody arrangements, so if you share joint custody with a civilian parent, you may be required to list them as the long-term caregiver in case of your unexpected deployment, depending on your custody agreement. However, for short-term deployment you may be able to arrange a local caregiver for your child. 

Most states have laws in place that protect a military parent's rights to their children in case of deployment. However, there are a few states that allow custody to be changed if you are regularly deployed or away for a long time. If your spouse does file for a change of custody, you can file for a stay of court proceedings until you return under the Service Members Civil Relief Act. 

Preparing for Possible Death of a Parent 

Unfortunately, as a service member your death is a possibility if you are deployed, and you need to make arrangements in case you are injured or killed in the line of duty. This should be stated in your Family Care Plan. Traditionally, care of a child reverts to the other parent in this circumstance. However, if the other parent is abusive or has abandoned the child, you may file the proper court documents showing this to prevent your child from being released to their second parent. 

Child Support Issues 

Child support can be a complicated issue for military families, especially because many dependent spouses are used to receiving military benefits to care for your children that they may no longer have access to. It is important to discuss both short-term and long-term child support issues and come to an arrangement that best cares for your children. 

Custody and support issues may take longer to arrange when taking into consideration your military lifestyle. However, it is easier to make detailed arrangements at the time of your military divorce as opposed to waiting until you are reassigned or your pay grade changes to deal with military issues.