Custody and Visitation for Military Families

Posted on Mar 29, 2013 by Katie Carter

Dealing with child custody in military families presents is often a lot more complicated than in non-military families, primarily because the military service member has very little control over his (or her) life. When it’s possible that a parent could be transferred to another location or deployed to another country, there’s a measure of instability and unpredictability that can make establishing a workable permanent custodial relationship difficult.

It’s not impossible, though, especially if you and your child’s father are committed to working together for the sake of your children. For military families, there are some unique issues that complicate child custody.

One of the biggest issues is deployment. Because about a third of the Navy is stationed in Hampton Roads, this is an issue that comes up pretty frequently. The good news here is that when you go to talk to an attorney about your military divorce or custody issues, the attorney probably isn’t a stranger to these common problems. (It can’t hurt to ask your attorney, though, just to be sure—because it definitely requires some expertise to handle these situations!) In my practice, I see military families all the time, and I’m familiar with the problems that deployment poses.

Many families think that custody and visitation during deployment is no big deal, because the children can just go back and forth whenever the military parent is home from deployment. That CAN work, but you’ll have to remember that this will only work well if the two of you are able to work together. Remember that the burden will be on you (as the non-deploying parent) to try to maintain communication between the children and their father. These days, that’s not too difficult of a task, because of the ability to use video chat, iChat, Skype, FaceTime, or whatever other means you have available to you.

Custody and visitation arrangements should be unique to each particular family, so that you can be sure that it will work for you. The most important thing is to remember the best interests of the child factors, and come up with something that takes into account the children’s needs as well as dad’s military schedule. It’s difficult and inconvenient at times, but I’ve seen these arrangements work well when two parents are committed to making it work for the sake of their children.