The Stress of a Divorce Weighing You Down? Try Adding Kids and the Military!
Divorce is a difficult decision, but it becomes even more complex when children are involved. Furthermore, the custody of a child with a parent in the military becomes even more complicated because, like the lawyers at Higdon, Hardy & Zuflacht, L.L.P. explain, there is the possibility that the parent in the military will have a deployment or base reassignment. What is entailed in a military custody decision? It is important that you know your rights if you are a parent in the military going through a divorce.
Factors to Consider
As with civilian divorce, there are a number of factors to consider when deciding who will have custody of a child, including the wishes of the child, the mental and physical health of the parents, the need for continuation of stable home environment, evidence of parental drug, alcohol or sex abuse, and more. These “best interest” factors help determine what type of custody parents will have of their children.
It is important to take possible deployment or reassignment into consideration when drawing up a custody agreement since moving a child to another state usually would violate the custody order or child relocation laws. Since military parents are aware of the possibility of deployment or reassignment, they can include custody or visitation provisions in the event that they are deployed or reassigned. It is important to discuss your options with your family lawyer in order to know the best way to proceed.
While having a parent in the military should not negatively impact custody arrangements, some military members and lawmakers fear the possibility of deployment or reassignment renders military parents inherently unstable in the eyes of the court since both deployment and reassignment can be disruptive to children.
The Family Care Plan
If both parents are in the military or if there is a single parent in the military, the parent or parents must make a family care plan that is reviewed by the service member’s commanding officer and updated annually. This plan outlines what will happen to any children or dependants in case of deployment or reassignment and must include a short-term caretaker, a long-term caretaker, and care provision details. Neither the short-term nor long-term caretakers may be part of the military, and the short-term caretaker must be local. The care provision details include information about how to care for the child, including bank account numbers and passwords, medical procedures necessary for the child’s care, and more.
Family care plans can be required for a number of reasons, including when a member of the military becomes a single parent through death or divorce or when a spouse becomes unable to care for children for any reason. Some lawyers recommend including a family care plan in the custody order so that you avoid unnecessary issues.
It is important that the family care plan does not conflict with other legal documents, including the service member’s estate plan, divorce decree, or custody order. Contact a military lawyer today to review your documents.