Divorcing Military Personnel: Special Considerations for Children

Board Certified Family Law Specialist Matt Arnold answers the question: “What are my custody rights if the other parent moves?”


Whether you are in the military, or you have a spouse who is in the military, you experience particular strains to your marriage that not every couple does. Dealing with the high-pressure work and the extreme separations can take a toll. Unfortunately, sometimes the strain results in divorce. In fact, in any given year, there can be as many as 30,000 military divorces. As in any divorce, taking care of the physical, emotional, and mental needs of children can be complicated. Some might say that children’s issues are even more complicated in military divorces. If you are part of a military couple seeking to terminate their marriage, an experienced divorce attorney can help.


special-forces-Charlotte-Monroe-Lake-Norman-Military-Divorce-and-Child-Custody-225x300Military Deployment


The fact is, deployment stresses relationships, especially for younger couples. As the months accumulate, the probability of divorce climbs, as well, particularly in the post 9/11 generation.  Enlisted women, in particular, are at risk for divorce. Whether the months apart are in multiple short intervals or limited longer stretches, as the amount of time away increases, problems in the relationships get more and more difficult to patch.


Unique Issues in Military Divorces


While many aspects of divorce are pretty standard, military families face special circumstances that require unique considerations. Children, in particular, are vulnerable to pain and loneliness at the prospect of not seeing a parent for long stretches of time.


Child Custody


While there was a time when military members were presumed ineligible for custody of children in a divorce, times are changing, along with attitudes and interpretations of parental obligations to children. Modern courts acknowledge that military service alone is not enough to deny custody. In fact, there are many arguments in favor of placing children with a service member:


  • Excellent schools are available on military bases and posts;
  • Day-care facilities on bases are generally top notch;
  • Schools and day-care are no cost to service members;


In any divorce, the court must consider the best interests of the child.  This means that a number of factors will be weighed in making custody determinations.


Visitation for Non-Custodial Service Members


Non-custodial parents in the military may be separated across many states and/or for long time periods, making traditional weekly visits impossible. However, longer visitation may be possible during winter vacation or summer break.  Additionally, virtual visitation using email, Facetime, webcams, and so forth may be a desirable substitute for weekly in-person visits for many military families.  In some cases, such as when service members are serving overseas, even virtual visitation may not be possible. In these circumstances, perhaps visitation arrangements could be made with the child’s grandparents, aunts, uncles or cousins. Finally, it is possible that visitation hours might be made up when the service member is closer to home.


Child Support


Military pay changes based on whether the service member is deployed or stationed in the country. This complicates child support calculations.


What You Need from Your Divorce Attorney


Military divorces have peculiarities that are not common to the everyday marriage dissolution.  You want an attorney who understands the intricacies and special circumstances surrounding your case. At Arnold & Smith, PLLC, we will work to ensure that your divorce settlement, including any rules regarding your children, is equitable and satisfactory to you. Contact our experienced team in Charlotte today for a confidential consultation. If you find yourself facing a complicated family law matter and need the help of experienced family-law attorneys in or around Charlotte, Lake Norman, or our new office in Monroe, please contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC today at (704) 370-2828 or find additional resources here.







The family law practice group at Arnold & Smith, PLLC includes two Board-Certified Family Law specialists and one Child Welfare Law specialist, as well as several attorneys with many years of family law experience that are committed to providing a powerful voice to individuals facing the often-tumultuous issues in this area of law. The range of issues our family law clients may be facing include pre- and post-nuptial agreements; separation agreements; post-separation support; child support (both temporary and permanent); absolute divorce; divorce from bed and board; military divorce; equitable distribution of assets; child custody (both temporary and permanent); retirement benefits and divorce; alimony and spousal support; adoption; and emancipation. Because this area of the law is usually emotionally charged and complicated, the family law attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC act with the utmost dedication to ensure that each client understands his or her options, and then act to achieve the best result possible for that client’s particular situation.







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