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Military child custody issues: The family care plan

Military service members here in Virginia and elsewhere face many of the same issues civilians do during a divorce. However, they must also address additional issues unique to serving in the United States Armed Forces. One is the need for a family care plan as part of any child custody agreement.

Since Operation Desert Shield, the initial phase of the Gulf War, single parents in the military or couples in which both parents are members of the military must have a family care plan that provides for the care of the children during a deployment. The plan not only allows for a caregiver to access military services and benefits on behalf of the children, but also provides for what will happen during both the short and long-term. Therefore, Virginia parents going through a military divorce will need to make some additional decisions regarding the children.

The requirements for a short-term and long-term caregiver differ. For instance, the short-term caregiver must live close and be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to take the children in should a soldier only receive hours’ notice. The long-term provider can then take over depending on the length of the deployment. The parent will also need to provide instructions and other information for both caregivers.

Making sure the family care plan includes everything required by law can be a challenge. Since it will need to be approved by the military service member’s commanding officer before being incorporated into any child custody agreement, getting it right the first time would be beneficial so this part of the process does not delay the divorce. In order to help ensure its accuracy, it would be a good idea to work with a Virginia attorney experienced in the issues facing military members.