Parents in the military: Tips for navigating custody issues

On Behalf of | Jun 14, 2023 | Military Divorce

Serving in the military and being a parent can both be incredibly valuable and fulfilling roles. But it might feel like they are at odds with each other if you fill both and are going through a divorce. One of your primary concerns can be how your active military service might affect your parenting time and rights.

If you are in this situation, know that while it can be stressful, there are ways to make it easier.

Know your rights

Legally speaking, active duty in the military does not disqualify you from having custody of your children. Every state has guidelines for determining physical and legal custody of a child. While these guidelines may vary, both federal and state governments put measures in place to prevent military parents from being punished for their service.

Instead, courts focus on other factors to make custody decisions, such as:

  • Your relationship with your child
  • Any history of abuse or violence
  • Your willingness to fulfill parental duties
  • Your child’s relationship with others in the family
  • Your child’s preference (in some cases)

Collectively, these and other factors help determine the arrangements that are in your child’s best interests.

Have a backup plan

It is equally important to recognize that military service may impact parenting functions. After all, duties such as deployment can make it difficult or impossible to attend to your child’s daily needs, take them to the doctor or be on time to pick them up or drop them off.

Because this impact can be unavoidable, it is crucial to plan for it with backup plans. These can vary depending on your service, family and circumstances. However, they could involve having your parents take over your parenting duties if you are deployed or allowing your child’s other parent to be the sole caregiver while you are gone.

Having these plans in place before they become necessary can be incredibly helpful in preventing confusion and keeping everyone on the same page.

Get experienced support

While it can feel like you are alone in this situation, know that you are not. Countless other military parents have navigated similar circumstances, and there are professionals who know precisely what you are going through and can provide valuable guidance.

Support groups, counselors, loved ones and legal professionals can all help you through this and any future challenges you might encounter.