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Military members face a lot of unique challenges that the civilian population doesn’t have to worry about. Some of these issues have to do with their family life. As you can imagine, family life isn’t easy for people in the military.

For service members who are going through a divorce and have children, the child custody matters can add a bit of complexity to the case. Here are some important things that you need to know about custody in the military:

Military service’s impact on custody

The fact that a person is in the military shouldn’t have an impact on child custody cases. If it is in the best interests of the child to live with the service member, this is what should happen. As a member of the armed forces, you will need to have a plan put into place so that your child is cared for if you are sent out on a deployment or required to report for duties that don’t allow you to have the child with you. This is known as a family care plan.

Contents of a family care plan

The family care plan must be approved by your commanding officer. It should include guardianship information for short-term and long-term periods. Ideally, someone near your duty station will have the short-term duty so that he or she can be called upon on short notice to get the child if you must leave quickly. The long-term person could be located in another area as long as he or she is willing to get the child.

On top of guardianship information, the family care plan should provide care guidelines, such as necessary medical information and school schedules. The location of important documents should be written out, as should the importance of military ID cards. You might also need to leave instructions on how the guardian can use the powers of attorney document and dependent ID card to get onto bases and installations.

Visitation with the child

Whether you have custody of the child or not, you need to make plans for visitation when you are deployed or in training. Phone calls and virtual visitation measures might be helpful. Spelling out the plan in the custody agreement is necessary so that you, your ex and your child know the plan for communication when you aren’t with the child. Remember that you will have to be the one to take the time zone differences into account when you are setting up visits. You can’t expect a child to wake up at 3:00 in the morning for a call so that you can make the call during the day in your time zone.