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Divorce is never an easy time in anyone’s life, but being a servicemember can create additional hurdles in the divorce process. This especially proves true if children are involved, as being a service member means deployment could occur at a given moment.

Any service member who is a single parent, or any dual-service couples seeking a divorce, should consider a Family Care Plan. FCPs will differ slightly by military branch, but in general, they are documents directing the care of your child in the event of deployment. A regular child custody agreement may not consider this.

Are FCPs required?

You may wonder whether your position as a servicemember requires you to have an FCP. In many cases, the answer is yes, but this does not always ring true. Generally, if your child could be left without parental care due to deployment, an FCP is required by law. This Navy FCP document provides general guidance on when you might need one.

What should you consider when preparing an FCP?

Taking care of a child is a huge responsibility, and parents always worry about their safety and well-being.  If facing employment, taking the following considerations can benefit your children. You should look at the following:

  1. Care providers, both short-term and long-term: The most important consideration involves who will be caring for your child. This person should be someone you trust and, insofar as possible, someone whose parenting style and lifestyle match yours. It is also a benefit if the person you choose is also close to your child or is a parent of one of your child’s friends. It is important to note that you should consider who will be caring for the child on a short-term basis and who will care for the child long-term, should the need arise.
  2. Financial provisions for your child: Another important thing to keep in mind is whether you will provide any financial support for the caregiver you have chosen for your child. It would be helpful to have these conversations in advance with the proposed caregiver.
  3. Medical and other important decisions regarding your child: It is critical to think about what types of medical care you will approve and authorize on behalf of your child, and what types of medical care you would oppose. This helps the child’s caregiver make these critical decisions the way you would make them.
  4. Directions for your child’s care: A caregiver for someone else’s child needs to have clear instructions from the child’s parents. School choice, dietary needs, daily routines and other critical considerations are important to include here.
  5. Estate planning considerations: If you are deployed, and something happens to you, it will be a great service to your child and everyone else close to you to have your will and other estate planning instruments updated.

After a divorce, you may wonder what your deployment could mean for your child, but putting protections into place before deployment can allow for their continued support and guidance while you are away. Although a trusted lawyer can walk you through all the considerations for creating an FCP, if you are a military member seeking an FCP, you should give these considerations some thought ahead of time.