Marriage and family in the military are by nature non-traditional, and they require special maintenance and an understanding of the unique challenges that can arise unexpectedly. Often, one parent takes care of the household while the other is away, sometimes for extended periods. Where there are children, the anchor parent must be adaptable to being a single parent or sharing responsibilities. A sudden deployment, extended periods of time apart, and the stress of military service will take its toll.
Military couples in Georgia and elsewhere face many of the same issues as do civilians when it comes to divorce, but there are unique procedures and a blend of federal and state laws in place that determine property division, pensions and other benefits for servicemembers. The complications of child custody arrangements in military divorces will also come up in a divorce settlement, so it is important for military parents to understand what to expect moving forward.
What happens in custody arrangements?
In Georgia, although the residency requirement for filing papers for divorce is normally six months, for divorcing couples living on a military base, for example in Savannah, it is 12 months. As in any custody hearing, the court will consider what is in the best interest of the child regarding home arrangements, basic care, education, access to the primary caregiver, economic support and a stable home environment.
Servicemembers who are frequently on duty or deployed on short notice face challenges to their fulfillment of custody or visitation requirements. A sudden reassignment can make it impossible to fulfill the terms of the custody agreement, and they may run into further problems with child relocation laws if they try to move the child out of state.
What is the family care plan?
Married servicemembers, whether they are both in the military or married to a non-servicemember, must create a family plan that outlines in detail the support they will provide in the event they are deployed while their child is in their care. Some important information that is in the plan includes:
- a short-term caretaker who will step in on short notice, and a long-term caretaker who may be a member of the military but cannot be a family member
- household details such as bank account numbers and passwords, important contact information of relatives and medical providers, as well as the child’s daily schedule, prescription medications and medical information
- a possible power of attorney in place if the caretaker must act on behalf of the parents
The servicemember’s commanding officer will also have access to the family care plan, which the parents will update annually.