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Child Custody and Single Parent Military Enlistment

Would you like to enlist in the military but your recruiter has told you that as a single parent you can not enlist if you have custody of a child?

The military prohibits first-term enlistment of single parents who have custody of a child. Why? Everyone in the military is expected to be “deployable.” This means that you have to be ready to leave on short notice to go anywhere in the world if national security needs require. Although some states permit child custody transfers with a power of attorney or similar document, the military requires a court order. Therefore, if you would like to enlist, you will be required to initiate a court proceeding to transfer custody. It should be noted that the single-parent custody prohibition changes from time to time based on the needs of the military.

Child Custody Court Proceeding

What is involved in a state court proceeding for child custody? In cases where the other parent is known, you must serve him with a Petition and Summons for an Allocation of Parental Responsibilities. You must file the action in the “home state” of the child. This is the state where the child has been living for the past six months. Next you notify the other parent of the court hearing. If you have the consent of the other parent to transfer custody, then you can enter a stipulated settlement and present it to a court asking that it be issued as a court order. You can transfer custody to any person that both parties agree to. If the other parent is unknown or has had parental rights terminated, then you do not need to notify them or receive their consent.

Commander Discretion

Commanders have the ability to allow a military member to bring a child to live with them during a first enlistment, however this is not a right and a servicemember should never expect or plan on it. A commander for the most part has this discretion only by choosing not to enforce the military prohibition. A servicemember can always ask their commander for this opportunity however after basic and initial entry training. It is not a good idea to bring a child to live with a servicemember during a first enlistment without a Commander’s consent because that could result in allegations of fraudulent enlistment.

Marriage During First Enlistment

Should a servicemember marry during their first enlistment, then their status will have changed and they could bring their child to live with them, though if they marry another servicemember they will be required to prepare and submit a “family care plan.” The family care plan details who will care for the child if both parents are required to deploy simultaneously. A servicemember who is married to a civilian is not required to submit a family care plan as the expectation is that the other spouse will care for the children in the event of the military spouse’s deployment.

How might a lawyer assist? If you want to transfer custody to a family member or other person to enlist in the military, a lawyer can answer your questions and draft the appropriate documents for you, as well as represent you in a custody proceeding. Consult with an attorney experienced in military and veteran’s legal matters.

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