Determining child custody during a divorce can be a challenging process. Every divorced couple needs a parenting plan that clearly defines how they’ll spend time with their child as well as how decisions will be made regarding their child.
But what happens if you’re an active member of the military? How does your active duty play a role in deciding child custody?
Your parenting plan will have terms regarding decision making about the child. Most divorced couples will have joint legal custody, which means that both parents are involved in decision making for the child. Decisions about education, non-emergency medical care, extra-curricular activities and religious training are to be discussed by the parents. In the event the parents cannot agree, there must be a designated tiebreaker. Often, the designated tiebreaker is the primary physical custodian. Joint legal custody also allows both parents to have access to their child’s education and medical records. In extreme circumstances, one party may be granted sole legal custody, meaning that parent is the sole decider.
Your parenting plan must also state which parent the child will be with and when. Commonly, one parent is the primary physical custodian, meaning the child primarily lives with that parent. This is often the parent who is not on active duty. The parenting plan should state how holidays and school breaks will be divided and should define regular parenting time for both parties. For a military member who is deployable, there should be flexibility in the parenting plan to allow that parent visitation with the child while on leave and contemplate what occurs when the deployment ends.
Creating your parenting plan
Regardless of your custody arrangement, you must create a parenting plan. For active military parents, there are many items you should include in this plan. Here are a few important ones to consider:
- Dates of deployment and return if known
- Emergency contact information in case you cannot be reached while away
- Medical information such as your child’s allergies and any regular medication
- A schedule of daily activities including school and after-school programs
It’s essential that you have time to spend with your child, and you should be able to serve your country without sacrificing your rights as a parent. Take the time to build a parenting plan that ensures you can balance work and parenting to create a safe environment for your child after divorce.