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How Does Custody Work For Service Members?

On Behalf of | Dec 11, 2020 | Child Custody

Navigating a military career with a family is a tricky balancing act. The stresses of service combined with a divorce can weigh heavily on a person. When a service member gets a divorce, many additional complications can arise from child custody issues. The divorce law in Alabama requires that the service member need to be a state resident. Even if they are stationed on an Alabama base, they might not have residency. Aside from residency requirements, most of the divorce laws are similar for civilians and service members.

Understanding military custody issues

Not all custodial agreements from a divorce will include provisions for military service and relocation. It is possible to work with a court and the other parent to modify an agreement, but this can be more difficult with a contested situation. Here are some of the ways that divorce laws are different for active service members:

  • Some laws help ensure active service members have time to respond to a divorce action. These guidelines provide protections for service members, so they are not divorced without their knowledge.
  • Spouses on active duty need to be personally served a summons for an Alabama court.
  • Typically, spousal and child support should not exceed 60% of the service member’s income.

Asking for assignments near children

The frequent and sudden changes in an assignment are common in the military and can hugely impact a person’s family. Though most service members may not have much flexibility in being stationed near their children, some branches have begun to offer specific assignments to help with custody issues. The Air Force has started accommodating (when possible) the custody decrees of airmen and military professionals. This change has established a precedent for service members requesting assignment nearer to their children. These changes could apply to biological and adopted children, producing a more flexible parenting environment for some service members. The changes do not go so far as to give a service member final say on location, but it produces an attempt at a mutually beneficial station. If you’re an active member of the military, you must explore all your options for reconciling your military career with your family’s needs.


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