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The most important part of custody matters to the military

Serving in the U.S. Armed Forces is noble and often considered a calling. It comes with numerous sacrifices. The service member isn't the only one who makes them, however. Being part of a military family can result in a unique type of stress that civilian families may not have to endure.

Long days, deployments and training could keep the service member away from home. This could put a strain on the marital relationship to the point at which it results in divorce. As part of the proceedings, you will need to work out your child custody issues, but as a member of the military, you will have one more task to complete -- your family care plan.

What is a family care plan?

The family care plan's primary objective is to make sure your children have care in your absence. You will need to choose both a short-term and long-term caregiver for those times when you are away for more than the workday. You may not have heard of this plan before because, during your marriage, you had a built-in caregiver.

Now that the military will consider you a single parent, you must make sure that your children can get to someone as quickly as possible, 24 hours a day, seven days a week should you receive orders to deploy with or without notice. Each service has certain requirements for these plans, but some principles are basic to all of them.

What should you include in your family care plan?

The best gift you can give your children while you are away is consistency and security. In order to do that, your plan needs to outline certain factors for the caregiver in order to maintain your household and continuity for your children, including those below:

  • Contact information for all important people in the children's lives
  • Medical condition and care information
  • Childcare information
  • Parenting challenges and responsibilities specific to each child
  • Financial information
  • Contact information for an alternative caregiver
  • Important documents, such as a power of attorney, agent letter of authorization and military ID cards
  • Information regarding the military resources available to the caregiver on behalf of the children

Even though you can't account for everything, the more information you include in your family care plan, the better off your children will be while you are gone. In addition, it will prevent your caregiver from having questions you may not be available to answer when needed.

After your commanding officer approves your plan, you will need to present it to the court, along with your child custody agreement and parenting plan.

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