In many ways, a military divorce is similar to a traditional divorce. But, there are some ways that the process is a bit different. One of the things that can be different is putting together a child custody plan. This differs because the parent in the military may move often or travel for training and deployments. This can make it challenging for there to be a stable and steady schedule that traditionally is used for child custody and visitation. However, you and your soon-to-be ex spouse can work together, or through a mediator, to put together a child custody plan that will work for both of you. As you work to put this plan together, there are a few factors that you need to consider. Here are a few of the factors you must consider as you put together a child custody plan when going through a divorce with an active military member.
What Happens if the Parent is Deployed
One of the factors that you and your ex spouse should include in the child custody plan is what happens if the military parent is deployed. While a military member may not share full physical custody of the children due to living arrangements, it is common that they share legal custody of the children. This gives them a say in the child's schooling, religion, medical care and other legal matters. However, if the parent is deploying over-seas, they may be unable to participate in discussions about these topics in a timely manner. As such, the parent may have to temporarily give up legal custody during their deployment. Making arrangements for this before it happens can help ensure that a plan is in place and no fights arise over the matter at a later date.
Whether the Children Can Travel Out of the Country
If there is a chance that the military spouse will be stationed overseas, you may want to have a plan in place regarding international travel in your child custody plans. Depending on the age of your children, how well-traveled they are, and how responsible your ex spouse is, you may not mind them traveling overseas to visit their other parent and experience a new culture. However, if your children are young and a long plane ride is out of the question, or you have concerns about your children being returned to you, you may wish to stipulate that the children can't travel out of the country and your spouse will have to travel to the US to see the children.
Visitation With Extended Family
If you live in the same area that your ex's family lives in, he or she may request that the children be allowed to have visitation with their family when they are unable to have visitation with their children due to an out of state living arrangement or deployment. There can be tension if your ex feels you aren't giving his family enough time or you feel like they are requesting too much time. This is why making an agreement and including it in your child custody plan is recommended.
Notification for Visitation
The last factor you need to consider when you put together a child custody plan is how much notification the other parent should provide if they are coming into town to visit their kids. In some instances, the military may not give an active duty member much notice that they have approved or denied vacation time or leave requests. This can make it challenging for the military parent to give a lot of notice to you or the kids that they are coming. Likewise, your kids may already have activities or vacations planned because they didn't know the parent was coming to visit. As such, you will want to include notification request when putting together a child custody plan with a military member. You may want to state that you request two weeks notice and if notice is not given, the visiting parent may have to work around events that are already scheduled or you may have a more flexible schedule and simply state that visitation can be arranged with 72 hours notice.
Putting together a child custody plan with an active military member can present unique challenges. The military member may travel, move often or be deployed with little warning. However, if you and your ex are flexible, you can put together a custody plan that is beneficial for you, them and your children. Planning ahead for deployment, possible out of country relocation, visitation with their family and how much notice you need when they are coming to visit their children can help you both be on the same page as to what will happen in those situations. This can prevent the need to go back and forth about custody in the future and help you both to move on with your lives. If you and your ex cannot come to an agreement, a divorce lawyer who is familiar with military divorces should be consulted with. They can help advise you on how to proceed and what other factors may play a role in a child custody agreement.