Military personnel and their families face many unique challenges. While a parent going into harm’s way to serve their country can lead to the ultimate sacrifice, the children and other parent (even when they are divorced) must make sacrifices and adjustments as well, particularly when the custodial parent is deployed.
It’s advisable and common that military families have a family care plan in place that is filed with the service branch of the Department of Defense. The children will reside with their other parent unless the other parent isn’t themselves deployed, has waived his/her rights to custody or has been deemed unfit to be a guardian by the courts. Grandparents, extended family or friends can be guardians, but this arrangement should be discussed with the other parent.
It also doesn’t hurt to speak with an attorney or get a court order to set down guidelines for a parenting plan. These should:
- Be consistent with your agreed upon wishes.
- Be put in writing.
- Outline what happens once you return from deployment.
Changes to the family care plan can be made while you are deployed, but the military has Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. This prevents the non-deployed parents from making any permanent changes while the other parent is gone.
When drawing up a divorce agreement, it’s always smart to take these issues into consideration. Lawyers with experience in military divorces will be able to help tailor your parenting plan to accommodate many eventualities. An attorney can also provide insight when it is time update the agreements as circumstances change.