Military Parenting Plan: Practical Tips to Fit Your Life

Updated April 29, 2021
Daughter embracing her soldier mom against house

Divorce is rough. Divorce, while one or more partners serves in a branch of the military and shares children, is even harder. When families have to make the difficult decision to part ways while serving in the military, careful thought and planning must go into moving forward so that all parties are considered and protected.

What Is a Military Parenting Plan?

A military parenting plan is an agreement between two parents regarding custody and care of their minor children when one or both parents serve in a branch of the armed forces. When military parents decide to divorce, specific and careful considerations are taken into account that reflect the complexity of such a circumstance. Military parenting plans aim to help both parties continue contact with their kids and ensure that minor children are in safe and stable environments. In times of deployment, all minor dependents will be cared for in a manner agreed upon by both custodial parties. Generally speaking, there are five primary areas of a military parenting plan that should be addressed.

Custody During Deployment

Most divorced couples don't have jobs that take them away for months or years at a moment's notice. When military parents divorce, they have to create a custody plan for the present and a plan for possible deployment. These parents must consider a wide variety of situations and factors that might affect custody and the lives of their children.

  • When one parent serves in the military, the civilian parent often takes over with childcare when the ex-spouse leaves for deployment.
  • If the civilian parent is unfit to care for the child, and the custodial parent must leave to serve their country, other family members are appointed as custodial guardians.
  • If both parents are in the military, plans must address the possibility that both parents could be deployed simultaneously, and custody must be altered in this event.
Young girl is happy to see army mom

Visitation During Deployment

Issues surrounding visitation can look different for military parents going through a divorce. Plans should address what happens to visitation schedules in the event a parent gets deployed. Sometimes parents who are on active military duty cannot consistently or frequently visit with their child. In these cases, a substitute visitation can sometimes be scheduled. This is when a family member of the deployed parent visits the child in place of the parent who can not be present.

Visitation for parents on military duty does not look as it would during typical periods of civilian life. Technology can be beneficial for parents who must learn to co-parent virtually.

Plans Following Deployment

What happens when the parent who was previously deployed returns home? A good military parenting plan should address this homecoming in regard to custody and visitation.

Issues of Relocation

Military parents sometimes must make moves without much choice. If a military parent must relocate, custody is sometimes granted to the parent staying put. Specific provisions can be put into military parenting plans to prevent or address this.

Updating All Plans Frequently

Military families need to create family care plans to address the needs of the family. These plans often include information regarding:

  • Appointed custodians
  • Finance arrangements
  • Travel and visitation plans and preparation
  • Insurance and medical information for anyone appointed to care for your children during deployment
  • Family school, sports, and social schedules
  • Copies of medical information for minors
  • Other needs of children

When a change happens in a marriage and the military family creates a military parenting plan, make sure these changes are reflected in the family care plan.

Military father and child together

Key Considerations That Military Parenting Plans Should Cover

Aside from the five primary components of a military parenting plan, other key considerations should be covered and addressed in the plan.

  • Schedules about children and who will be responsible for executing those scheduling duties
  • Means of communication between parents and between parents and children throughout various possible situations and scenarios
  • Costs and itineraries pertaining to minor's travel plans
  • All medical coverage costs and responsibilities that differ from that is stated in the family care plan
  • Childcare decisions and costs and who will be covering what portion of them if different than what was previously established in a military care plan

Issues to Consider in a Military Parenting Plan

Military families are unique in many ways, and one of those ways is custodial and co-parenting scenarios. The careers and lives of military parents take them away from their children unexpectedly, and this way of life has to be addressed in a parenting plan to protect and serve all parties. Common unique custody situations of divorced military parents include:

  • Parents can find themselves in active combat zones with little time to prepare for leave.
  • Some assignments are not conducive to families, and kids can not be taken along with military parents on specific assignments.
  • Some military parents must move frequently and with little notice, putting stress on the family custodial agreements.

Provisions Protecting Service Members

No matter the state you reside in, custody matters can not be decided solely based on military engagement. To protect parents serving in the military, provisions exist, preventing custody cases to be decided based on military duty responsibilities.

  • Past, current, or future absences by a parent serving in the military cannot be used as the sole determinant for custody cases. Essentially, the fact that your job takes you away from your kids cannot be the reason that you are not granted custody.
  • Custody arrangements and orders can not take place when an active military member is unavailable.
  • Custody orders should be set before deployment and revisited within a specific time frame upon the military parent's arrival home.

Challenging Changes

Military parents who divorce certainly go through a specific set of challenges in regards to their families. While working out the many details of custody, visitation, and otherwise can feel tedious, solid parenting plans are crucial and will benefit all involved in the long run. Put the work in and make a military parenting plan in the best interest of all parties.

Military Parenting Plan: Practical Tips to Fit Your Life