Much gratitude is owed to those who serve in our nation’s military. Truly, these people often make great personal sacrifices to carry out their duties. If you are currently serving in the Army, Navy, Air Force or Marines, you likely understand that military service members often face everyday family problems, just like everyone else. In fact, many military members in Ohio have faced serious child custody and visitation problems during deployments and/or transfers causing much worry and anxiety on top of their regular (often stressful) military missions.

If you’re divorced or are planning to be in the near future and you also happen to be a parent in the military, you may want to do some research regarding parenting plans and visitation ahead of time to avoid negative surprises and know where to turn for help if obstacles arise.

Visitation basics, military style

As a divorced parent in the U.S. military, you may face unique challenges and circumstances from which private citizens are immune. It is possible, however, to create a solid parenting plan (revisable as needed) and arm yourself with information and support that you can access in a pinch if a problem occurs. Following is a list of basic facts regarding visitation and other child custody issues in the military:

  • Similar to non-military parents, it’s typically required that you and your former spouse sign a custody agreement (including visitation provisions) that the court must then approve.
  • If you are stationed in the state where your child’s other parent lives, you may be able to implement a non-structured visitation plan. This type of plan works well for those who enjoy amicable communication and are willing to compromise and cooperate as needed.
  • A structured plan is a viable option for those who desire exact specifications regarding when a non-custodial parent may visit and/or communicate with a child. A structured plan also often includes stipulations for transportation expenses, drop off locations and other logistics.
  • Virtual visitation is a popular choice for military service members stationed in states far away from their children. Online video chats, email, texting and phone calls are valuable tools that help parents and children stay in close contact when military service prevents in-person visits.
  • If deployed overseas, a close family member, such as an aunt, uncle or grandparent may be able to fill in for you when your visitation times arise.
  • Some people opt for adding extra visitation upon a military parent’s return from deployment to make up for lost time.

Including provisions regarding your possible deployments in your initial parenting plan is one of the easiest ways to avoid visitation problems down the line. No military service member who is also a parent should be penalized for his or her service by losing valuable parent/child time. If your former spouse refuses to adhere to your existing court-approved parenting plan, you may do what others in Ohio have done and reach out for support.

A family law attorney with experience assisting military families can clarify the laws that pertain to your particular situation and can aggressively litigate any issue as needed, whether you are stateside or currently serving overseas.