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3 custody options for military parents

Following a time-sharing custody schedule is hard enough for most parents. For those in the military, the issues become that much more complicated. Being in the Navy or another arm of the U.S. military means that your living situation could change at any moment. You could be stationed at a different naval base in the U.S., perhaps across the country. You could be deployed overseas.

If you’re being sent somewhere besides Pensacola, what options do you have?

Thankfully, Florida recognizes that your military service could interfere with your parenting plan. Here are three possible solutions if you have an existing parenting plan and receive word that you are being activated, deployed or temporarily assigned elsewhere.

1. Request temporary modification

This is the most common solution for military parents. If your deployment interferes with your parenting plan, you can petition to have it temporarily modified. The court will look to ensure the modified plan still meets the best interests of your child. It’s often a good idea to include plans for keeping in contact via phone, Skype or FaceTime, and other means.

2. Delegate your responsibilities to a family member

Ask a close family member to “fill in” for you. This person would assume your time-sharing obligations until your return. This solution only works if your deployment will last more than 90 days and again, only if it serves the best interests of your child. You may only ask a family member, the child’s stepparent (presumably your new spouse) or one of the child’s relatives by marriage to assume this role.

3. Draw upon your family care plan

All military servicemembers with children are required to create family care plans. Most include them within their original parenting agreements. Some people overlook it, though. Or, maybe you joined the military after your divorce or separation.

The plan designates two separate people to serve as short- and long-term caretakers for the children during your deployment. It also outlines key provisions those caretakers may need to know, like:

  • Passwords to access necessary accounts
  • The child’s medical needs and medications
  • Financial information
  • Instructions on how best to care for children while you’re away

You may also give these caretakers powers of attorney so they can act for your children on your behalf.

Your child’s other parent will need to consent to this plan, as will the court. Nevertheless, it can provide useful guidance in how to protect your parenting time and meet your time-sharing obligations when being deployed as a single parent.

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