Federal law prohibits you from enlisting in the U.S. military if you are a single parent who has custody of your child/children. It is a non-waiver condition; however, if you were part of a dual-parent family when you enlisted but have since become a single parent, the military will not likely ask you to resign your service, although you'd have to make sure you have implemented a parenting plan. The purpose of the parenting plan is to provide for your children if you deploy.
There are many circumstances that could prompt a change in your marital status during military service. Perhaps your spouse files for divorce or you are among those who suffer the untimely deaths for their spouses while enlisted in the military. Whether your spouse was a civilian or a fellow military service member, the government wishes to keep your children's best interests in mind if you plan to continue serving as a single parent.
Ins and outs of a military parenting plan
Your military parenting plan may vary from another of your military colleague's. The system is somewhat customizable, although there are specific requirements and categories associated with the process. The following list provides basic information that may help you determine what you must do to provide for your children should you deploy on active duty:
- There are generally three categories associated with a basic military parenting plan, which are as follows: short-term care, long-term care and provision details.
- The short-term care provider must be a non-military member. He or she must also agree to be available to care for your children at a moment's notice. As you likely know, there are times you may receive a deployment without notice. Short-term care provisions ensure there is always someone available to provide for your children in such circumstances.
- A long-term care provider must also be on hand should your short-term deployment become a long-term activation. A set plan must exist for transferring your child/children from your short-term care provider to your long-term care provider.
- Care provisions in your military parenting plan must extend beyond instructions for transporting your children between care providers. All details pertaining to their physical, medical, financial, legal and logistical support must be in writing and signed by appropriate parties.
Your military commander must review your proposed parenting plan and confirm that it is plausible for completeness with regard to your particular duties and possible deployments. If you began your military career in a dual-parent situation, there is a time limit on when you must notify your commander (or other designated representative to your commander) of your status change. There are support systems in place to assist you as you navigate the parenting plan process or need help overcoming any obstacles that arise.