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3 child custody issues you should know as a military parent

Divorce and child custody are always complicated, even in the best circumstances. As a service member, you face an even more complex situation. You will have to deal with the challenges of deployment and possible relocation and the effects they may have on your children.

The first step in protecting your rights as a parent is to understand how custody laws work in Mississippi. An experienced family law attorney can discuss the possibilities with you and recommend how best to proceed. Read further for information on key legal issues you should know about child custody as a military parent.

Custody arrangements

Whether you and your wife can agree on a custody agreement yourselves or you need a court order, the process is generally the same for military families as it is for civilian. You will have to make similar decisions that are in your children's best interests. This means that you will have to consider the possibility of deployment and reassignment and the effects this might have on your children. For example, how will a sudden overseas deployment affect the custody arrangement?

Usually, a parent moving to another state or country with the children (without proper authorization) is a custody order violation. As a military parent, you know that there is always a possibility that you may receive orders to move out of state. Since this possibility exists, you can include special provisions in the custody agreement to address this.

Effects of your military status

In general, your status as a service member will not have a negative effect on custody arrangements. The court requires that your children live in the household that provides for their best interests. If you are a better choice over their mother, the court should grant you custody. The possibility of deployment and relocation does not make you unsuitable to be the primary custodian.

While there are not currently any laws in place to keep the courts from viewing service members as less than optimal choices for full custody, you may be able to delay any court actions that arise while you are deployed. This includes custody disputes.

Creating a family care plan

As part of the custody arrangements, you will have to create a family care plan. This plan will describe what will happen if the military issues deployment orders. You must name a short-term caretaker that lives close to the base and is available to take care of the children at any time of day or night. While the caretaker you choose cannot be a military member, he or she can be a military spouse.

You must also identify a long-term caretaker in case you have a long deployment. Like with the short-term caretaker, this individual cannot be a service member. However, the long-term caretaker does not have to be close to the base or local.

In addition to naming caretakers, you will also have to provide instructions on how to care for your children. For example, you might leave bank account numbers and passwords to provide for the financial needs of your children. Also, leave clear instructions regarding medical needs and procedures, transportation to the caretakers' homes, and anything else that will help your children transition smoothly. You may need to include powers of attorney as well so that the caretakers' can act on your behalf.

Legal help

Dealing with child custody issues as a military parent can be complicated. If you are a service member and thinking of divorce, it is important to understand your parental rights.

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