As a parent in Virginia who also serves as a member of the U.S. military, you are undoubtedly no stranger to challenge and sacrifice. If you are one of many military service men or women who are currently preparing to navigate the divorce process, your greatest concerns likely include child custody issues as well as the care of your children if your military duties take you overseas. You may already be familiar with a family care plan, which the military strongly encourages all service members who are parents to possess.
When you divorce, your family care plan will play a crucial role in the immediate and long-term care of your children if your unit happens to deploy. One of the greatest benefits of the family care plan is that you can customize your particular plan to meet your children's needs and your ultimate goals for your family. It's extremely stressful to be serving overseas without the added stress of trying to carry out your military duties afar if you're worried about your kids back home.
Put it all in writing
Asking someone to help take care of your children while you're deployed is one thing, executing a written plan and signing it so it is legally enforceable is quite another. Your family care plan can be as basic or detailed as you like. If, for instance, you want to make sure your kids go to church services every week while you're away, you can specify this in your plan. The following information explains more about the types of instructions you can include in your family care plan:
- Name your provider: Whether you choose one or several people to care for your children while you are deployed, you will want to designate anyone or all who have agreed to fulfill this responsibility. You may also include statements of agreement for situations other than deployment, such as if you are involved in a medical emergency and cannot care for your own children. Your designated care provider would be able to pick your child up from school and act on your behalf in your absence.
- Events and activities list: If you kids play sports, take regular lessons of some sort, such as dance classes or karate, etc., or belong to extracurricular clubs that meet regularly outside the normal school setting, you may incorporate a weekly calendar into your military family care plan so your care provider knows at a glance where your children need to go.
- Daily structure and routine: You may also include any details regarding daily activities, child responsibilities, such as chores, or anything you wish to stress regarding home life, and family routines.
- Medical information: To be as prudent as possible, it's always a good idea to include your children's medical information in your family care plan. If your child has allergies to certain foods or medicines, if there are doctor appointments scheduled, or you simply want to make sure your children take their vitamins every day, you can spell it all out in your care plan.
- Important names and numbers: You can cover any contact information you believe is crucial to your children's care while you're away by providing a main list of names, phone numbers and addresses in your family care plan.
If you have sole custody of your children, then you do not necessarily have to designate the non-custodial parent as the care provider for your children in your family care plan. However, if there is an existing court order regarding visitation, your care provider will have to be aware of such details and adhere to the court order insofar as making sure the non-custodial parent has access to your children at the scheduled visit times.
Many service members ask experienced Virginia family law attorneys to review their family care plans before signing. This helps avoid confusion and potential legal problems.