Military parents have additional considerations for custody

If you serve in the Armed Forces, your country owes you a debt of gratitude. Your sacrifices help keep this country safe, but they also put an unusual type of strain on your marriage. Deployments, temporary duty assignments and frequent moves can lead to divorce.

If you have children, what happens to your role as a parent may be a primary concern for you as you negotiate a child custody agreement. You may know that in civilian divorces, a parent can't simply pick up and move with the children, so you wonder how a reassignment would affect your custody rights. Fortunately, military personnel are not restricted like civilian parents are. You just need to include certain provisions in your custody agreement regarding your military service.

One other thing

Since divorce makes you a single parent, you are required to create a "family care plan," which outlines what happens if you are deployed. This plan must, at a minimum, include the following information:

  • Who takes care of your children for short-term absences? This person must be available 24/7, live near your duty station and not be a member of the military, unless it is the other parent.
  • Who takes care of your children for long-term absences? This person doesn't have to live close to your duty station, but also may not be a member of the military.
  • How should this person care for your children? You will need to provide detailed instructions regarding your children's care for your caretaker to follow.

You can include details such as information about schools, doctors and other matters of importance to the care of your children in your plan. Once completed, your commanding officer must review and approve it. You will also need to review and update it each year. Everyone who accepts responsibility for caring for your children must sign the plan.

If you don't list your ex-spouse as a caretaker and you are the children's primary custodian, the other parent must agree to the plan. Otherwise, you will need to seek an order from an Arizona court to certify the plan. After the plan is finalized and certified, you may want to attach it to your child custody agreement so that it becomes a part of the order. This could save you frustration and hassle later should any disputes arise regarding the plan.

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