Child custody can become complicated when one or both parents serve in the military. If you are facing a divorce and you or your spouse is in the armed forces, issues such as deployment must come into play. 

Understand the special considerations for military custody so you can make a parenting plan that works for your family. 

Deployment and relocation 

If a parent who has sole or joint custody receives an order of relocation from the military, he or she may need to move out of state or even internationally with little notice. Add provisions to your parenting plan that detail the alternate custody arrangement in case of a possible deployment or relocation. You can also follow the state procedure for requesting relocation with your child if you wish to maintain custody. 

In Pennsylvania, the state cannot change an existing custody arrangement because the parent who has custody must deploy with the military. However, the service member can request a temporary change in custody and visitation for the length of the service commitment. 

Court proceedings 

A federal law, the Servicemember’s Civil Relief Act, prevents a child custody case from proceeding in court when a parent is serving deployment. If your spouse or former spouse requests a custody change when you are unavailable to attend court, you can legally postpone the court date so that you can attend the hearing and preserve your parental rights. 

Family care plan 

Military members must create a family care plan that details their wishes for their children when they have custody while on active duty. This plan should designate a short-term caretaker who can take the children at a moment’s notice, a long-term caretaker on whom you can rely during deployment and comprehensive instructions for child care such as medical and financial details. 

Before filing for divorce, have an honest discussion with your spouse about how military service may affect custody. Ideally, you can work with your co-parent to create a plan that supports the well-being of your children.