Relocation and deployment are simply realities of life for active service members. The job can take a person away from the place they’ve been calling home, often for months at a time. This is a difficult situation in a vacuum. When that individual is a divorced parent, it becomes even trickier to navigate.
How can families in this situation try to address this challenge? Here are some possible starting points.
Have a plan
Any separated parents should have a parenting plan that outlines child custody terms. This agreement should lay out which parent gets the children when, and for how long. When a military parent is involved, an effective parenting plan is all the more important.
This plan should include alternate arrangements in the event the military parent is deployed overseas or relocated to another state. Answering these questions ahead of time can save everyone the stress of having to hastily craft a new arrangement while also preparing for the upcoming change.
Consider virtual visitation options
Technology has been a blessing for families separated by circumstances. In Hawaii, the law requires both parents to “facilitate opportunities” for contact through the phone or electronic means. However, it may be possible to include a specific virtual visitation arrangement in a parenting plan. This can provide some level of certainty that may not exist otherwise.
This electronic visitation can help ensure a child gets quality time with both parents – even one currently living far away.
Finding more time upon return
Parents have the latitude to come up with a child visitation agreement on their own. Generally, if the parents agree, the courts will approve it (though a judge does have some discretion).
If it makes sense, it’s possible to discuss establishing some temporary, additional visitation time for the military parent upon their return. This could take the form of a longer-than-normal visit, for example, or maybe some additional holiday time in the year ahead for the military parent.
If both parents remain on good terms and are willing to be flexible, there may be some options here to consider.