As if child custody rules aren’t already complicated enough, they present even more of a challenge for military families. When a parent relocates as a result of deployment or reassignment, the transition often precipitates or coincides with family dissolution. Other times, a spouse refuses to move with the service member. Whatever the case, military child custody disputes require trusted legal advice and swift resolution to overcome the hurdles service members usually face.

Military Custodial Challenges

If you’re in the military, your service duty may require you to be out of the state or even the country for an extended time. If your deployment involves frequent, prolonged, or unpredictable periods of separation from your children, their other parent may challenge you in regard to parenting plans.

In the State of Washington, the legal term for full custody is residential placement. Courts may be reluctant to award this to parents who are active military if they have an uncertain schedule. For better or worse, this makes it challenging for military members to win residential placement.

Washington State Visitation Rights

If a parent receives military deployment that requires them to move a substantial distance from home or otherwise affects their ability to exercise parental or visitation rights, a judge may be able to temporarily assign custody and visitation rights to the child’s family member or another person with a close relationship to the child. Much like other laws in Washington surrounding parenting plans, a judge assigning residential time or visitation rights must make decisions in the child’s best interest. The judge could not assign a residential time or visitation rights to an individual who would otherwise not be allowed to have those rights, such as a parent who committed child abuse.

The Family Care Plan

Single parents in the military, as well as families in which both parents are military members, are required to create something called a family care plan. This describes what will happen to their children (and other dependents) in the case of deployment. The family care plan must include:

A short-term caretaker. Someone close to the base which can be called anytime to tend to the children. The short term caretaker must not be a member of the military but can be a military spouse.

A long-term caretaker. Someone who takes care of dependents during long term deployment. They need not be local but cannot be a member of the military.

Care provision details. These are instructions on how to care for the child, which can include bank account information, instructions for how to transport the child to the caretakers’ residences, medical procedures necessary for the child’s care, and any other notes that ensure the transition to the child’s new home is as smooth as possible.

Meet with a Washington Military Custody Lawyer

At Envision Law, our team of attorneys is equipped with specialized expertise and has a successful track record of working with service members from all branches of the military. If you are an active military member in need of legal representation when it comes to preserving a healthy relationship with your child, you need a trusted lawyer in your corner — contact Envision Law today!

Family care plans shouldn’t conflict with other legal documents, such as the member’s estate plan, divorce decree. A trusted military lawyer can review these documents for potential conflicts, as well as recommend changes to ensure future deployments go off without a hitch.