Military couples face unique challenges when it comes to marriage, home life and raising a family. The non-traditional family model often includes one parent having the responsibilities of maintaining the household while the other is deployed, sometimes for months. The stress of extended deployments and military service can prove too much for families to sustain over time.
Military couples going through divorce face many of the same issues as civilians, but there are added complications to custody arrangements that need to be addressed in the divorce settlement.
Custody arrangements for military families
The procedures and enforcement of military child custody are guided by different priorities in military divorces and enforced by a blend of state and federal laws.
When making custody arrangements, the primary guiding factor is the home arrangement that is in the best interest of the child. Because service members may be deployed or reassigned with little advance notice, this can disrupt even the best laid custody arrangements, and also come into conflict with child relocation laws that restrict the removal of a child to another state.
The family care plan
Single parents in the military, as well as families where both parents are service members, must create a family care plan which will contain provisions for care of the children in the event of deployment. Often, a family care plan is included in the custody order in order to simplify and plan for unexpected events such as deployments.
This plan will include:
- A short-term caretaker who will be on-call in the case of an emergency,
- A long-term caretaker who will step in to care for the children in the event of a long-term deployment; neither the short-term nor the long-term caretaker can be a member of the military but can be a military spouse,
- Care provision details, which includes bank account numbers, passwords, care instructions for the child including daily schedules, prescription medication schedules and any medical procedures.
- Some plans include a power of attorney in the event that the caretaker must act on behalf of the parents.
Alternatively, a custodial military parent can request a divorce modification if their situation changes.
For service members in in and around the Riverside area here in California, it can be valuable to have a family law attorney skilled in the complexities of military divorce to assist you with a range of issues including divorce modifications, child support and, if necessary, a stay of proceedings if divorce papers are served while you are deployed.