Being a parent is never easy. Your children need your time, attention, and support. They want you to comfort them when they get nightmares. They want you to play with them. They want you to shape their lives and help them grow. But what happens when your job demands you relocate several states or half the world away?

Military parents face a range of issues unique to their careers, and these concerns may be amplified whenever there’s a question of divorce or child custody.

You want a good plan

Military parents live with a constant threat of change. When you swear your oath to defend the Constitution, you sign up for deployment or relocation at a moment’s notice. Naturally, this can present challenges if you get divorced or if you marry someone who’s already a parent. Some of the complications involve:

  • Child custody generally falls under state law. Accordingly, it matters which state controls the custody question. The child’s interests will come first, but different states may look at those interests in different ways. Most couples have just one choice for where they’ll file, but military parents often have more choices. They may be able to file in the states where they claim legal residence, where they’re stationed, or where their spouse lives.
  • Deployment and relocation. Without advanced planning, your deployment or relocation can significantly limit your access to your children. Getting a custody modification can take time, especially if the other parent wants to challenge it. So many military parents make sure to address the possibility of relocation in their custody orders even before they’re told to move.
  • The family care plan. As a military parent, you need to create a family care plan in case of deployment. But did you know the quality of your plan can affect your child custody? According to Illinois law, the court can consider the terms of your family care plan when it determines your child’s best interests.
  • Blended families. If you marry a man or woman with children from a previous marriage, the ex may have rights under an existing custody order. Those rights don’t end when you receive the order to relocate. This means your spouse might have to choose between living with you or the children. That’s not a good choice for anyone. Your spouse may want to seek a modification as soon as you marry and bring the chance of relocation to the family.

These are just a few ways that divorce and custody can be more complicated for military parents. Not every family law attorney understands these issues, so it’s important for military parents to work with attorneys who do.