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Are military custody agreements the same as civilian ones?

Military custody agreements share many similarities with civilian agreements, but notable exceptions exist. Serving in the United States military often requires deployments or relocations with minimal notice.

Civilians would be required to obtain a court's permission to modify visitation or relocate a child. As a military family, you and your former spouse are allowed to include provisions for deployment and relocation in your agreements.

Being a military service member should not count against you when seeking primary physical custody of the children. The law requires courts to assess what is in the best interests of the children, and if that means that you, as the military member, become the custodial parent, that is what should happen.

The problem arises if you are deployed. You and your former spouse are required to negotiate a family care plan that goes into effect if you are deployed.

What do we need to include in our family care plan?

Your family care plan needs to include the following elements:

  1. Short-term caretaker: This person may not be in the military and needs to live near the base so that he or she is available with little notice 24 hours a day, seven days a week to take over the care of the children. A military spouse is acceptable.
  2. Long-term caretaker: If the deployment lasts for a significant amount of time, you should appoint a more permanent caretaker. This person need not live in the same geographical area as the children, but must not be in the military.
  3. Care provisions: This section includes care instructions (including medical and medication needs), transportation instructions and financial arrangements. You should outline anything else that will make the transition easier and less stressful on the children.

You and the caretakers sign the plan once completed. If your soon-to-be former spouse is not one of the caretakers, he or she must consent and sign as well. Thereafter, your commanding officer reviews it each year unless an event triggers the need for a new plan (i.e. the birth of another child or death of the non-military parent).

What if my former spouse disagrees with the plan?

If your former spouse refuses to consent to the plan, obtain a court order to certify it. Adding the family care plan to your custody agreement removes the need for this extra step.

Your service to this country demands that you receive the same rights afforded to any other parent. Enlisting the assistance and guidance of an Illinois attorney who understands the needs and requirements of military members helps ensure that this happens.

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