After the Gulf War, the Department of Defense realized that numerous dual-military and single-military parents did not have prearranged plans for their children when deployed. For this reason, many soldiers called to deploy overseas experienced significant delays.
To make sure this problem never arises again, the DOD began requiring parents in these two situations to create a family care plan and prohibited single parents from joining any branch of the U.S. Armed Forces. The DOD does allow service members facing becoming a single parent through divorce if already in the military, however. If you are a divorcing military servicemember with children, you must create such a plan before finalizing your custody arrangements.
The short-term family care plan
Since you may not receive ample notice of your deployment, you must make short-term — think emergency — arrangements for the care of your children. The person you choose must meet the following criteria:
- He or she must live in the local area of your current duty station.
- He or she cannot be another military servicemember but can be the spouse of one.
- He or she must agree to take in your children at any time of the day or night and remain available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Your choice of caretaker must sign your family care plan, acknowledging that he or she complies with and agrees to the above.
The long-term family care plan
Whether you receive your orders for deployment with or without notice, your short-term caretaker may not be able to care for your children for the duration of your deployment. Therefore, you must choose a long-term caregiver as well, who may be the same person but does not have to be. The basic criteria for this individual includes the following:
- He or she cannot be a member of any branch of the military.
- He or she does not have to live in the same local area as your current duty station or short-term caretaker.
- You must make provisions for the transfer of your children from the short-term to the long-term caregiver, if necessary. This involves providing funds for transportation and other related expenses.
As with the short-term caretaker, your long-term caretaker must also sign your family care plan, acknowledging the willingness to undertake these duties and that he or she meets the aforementioned criteria.
Other aspects of your family care plan
You will also need to include a myriad of information regarding the care of the children that includes pertinent information for school, health care and more. If your child has any special needs, this is the place to put it in writing. You must also address the financial aspects of taking on the care of your children since you cannot expect your caretaker to assume those expenses without your assistance.
You also need to provide information regarding the temporary usage of military benefits, such as the commissary, medical facilities and more on behalf of the children. Attaching a power of attorney and HIPAA authorizations may also prove useful. Your commanding officer must approve your plan before you take it to court, so the more inclusive it is, the greater the possibility of receiving that approval.