Military members who are going through a divorce often worry that they won’t get to maintain custody of their children because of their service. Federal law protects the right of military parents to have either sole or joint custody of their children just as civilian parents. The Servicemember’s Civil Relief Act (SCRA) is one of the pieces of legislation you can refer to.
If relocation is a possibility for the military parent, you can agree to create a new co-parenting time schedule when one of the parents has to relocate. Service members won’t know where they are moving until the military gives them notice, which is why it’s best to wait until you know. It’s important to clearly define who maintains custody of the child because the other parent can sometimes gain custody when the military parent has to relocate.
Just as with relocation, you need to clearly define who your child will stay with during your deployment. If your former spouse isn’t responsible enough to watch over your child, then you need to find a family member who can take care of them while you are away. Because you won’t always be able to make legal decisions for the child, you must clarify issues regarding legal custody during deployment. You may temporarily give legal child custody to the other parent if they are trustworthy and responsible. If not, you can choose to have a family member in charge of decision-making until you return.
Include provisions in your plan that allow for you to have electronic and telephone communication with your child while you are away. Also have provisions that guarantee the other parent’s visitation rights when the child is staying with a family member. The goal is to work out a plan that allows your child to spend as much time as possible with their parents.
Your co-parenting plan needs to be clear and detailed to protect yourself and to limit arguments with your former spouse. Remember that your co-parenting plan is a legal contract; you want to cover all bases to prevent major problems. Consulting with a family lawyer can help you make sure you have all of the necessary provisions.