How does child custody work in a military divorce?

Generally, custody arrangements allocate the amount of time and responsibility each parent from a divorced marriage will spend with their children after the couple is separated. But, for divorcing military couples, an unexpected leave may prevent a traditional custody arrangement from doing its job.

If you will be going through a military divorce, you may have custody questions, such as whether sole custody is an option for military members or how joint custody works during a leave.

Read on to learn more about how custody is handled in military divorces.

Sole custody or joint custody can be awarded to a parent who is a military member.

In joint custody cases where only one parent is a military member, the civilian parent usually takes full custody of the children if the service member is on temporary leave. However, modifications cannot be made to the parenting plan on the basis that a military parent has been deployed. 

Service members who have sole custody of children may designated a family caretaker if they will be on temporary leave for 90 days or longer. The caretaker may be a stepparent, grandparent or relative by marriage and will be able to care for the child in the parent’s absence.

Otherwise, a military member may refer to a Family Care Plan. A Family Care Plan is similar to a custody arrangement in that it establishes how a child will be cared for when a responsible parent is tending to military duties.

If there is uncertainty over when and where a military member will be deployed and for how long, divorcing parents may be encouraged to include special provisions. This may make accommodations, such as providing more virtual visitation time during a parent’s deployment or longer periods of visitation after a parent returns from deployment.

If a military parent has been ordered to relocate or would like to relocated 50 miles away or more, permission from the ex-spouse or the court is required.

If you have further questions relating to your unique situation involving custody arrangements or disputes in a military divorce, contact a divorce attorney  who has served two decades in the military and has a strong background in military divorce and custody law.

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