Military parents face many unique complications and challenges, beyond those of non-military families. One matter that requires special attention is child visitation, which can be disrupted by deployments to other states or overseas.
Basic visitation arrangements for military parents are similar to child visitation arrangements for other parents. Just like non-military parents, provisions for visitation are generally included in separation agreements.
When both parents are in the same local area visitation may be either structured or unstructured.
An unstructured child visitation arrangement allows the parents to work out a flexible visitation schedule allowing for reasonable contact between parents. It may also designate the non-custodial parent as the “sitter of first choice,” which means that the custodial parent will call the other parent to watch the children instead of a babysitter. Unstructured visitation arrangements work best when the parents live in close proximity to each other and communicate well.
Structured visitation agreements specify times during which the non-custodial parent may visit with the child, as well as provisions for holidays, missed visitation appointments, change of schedules, transportation costs, pick up and drop off times and locations, and any other logistical details. These types of arrangements are best for parents who are unable to communicate reasonably with one another.
It is best to plan for long distances with military visitation, even if the parties are both “local” at the start of the case. Many military personnel find themselves reassigned in a Permanent Change of Station (PCS) move after three to five years at one installation.
When drafting a visitation schedule for the children, it is imperative to create both a local schedule and a long distance schedule. The long distance schedule should provide in the appropriate case, for visitation for several weeks in the summer and for a week or two during the Christmas holidays. It should specify who pays for airline tickets, how they are provided to the custodial parent, and how a child who cannot travel alone will be transported to the non-custodial parent’s residence for the visitation.
Parents who are separated by long distances may also consider virtual visitation, or visitation through phone calls, emails, or online video chat programs. Parents who enjoy a good relationship can decide on appropriate calling times on their own, otherwise, parents include particular calling times in the separation agreement. The custodial parent must ensure that the child is available to speak and the phone lines are clear during virtual visitation hours.
Military members cannot always employ a standard parenting plan. The demands of deployments, training, permanent change of station require a personalized parenting plan be developed for each individual situation. Regardless of whether this is a one or two military member situation, plans that are in the children’s best interest can often be negotiated without the need for courtroom litigation.
The Law Offices of Renee Lazar has the understanding and expertise in handling military divorces which allows her to fashion parenting plans that take into account the demands of military life.