Military father holding baby wrapped in American flag

Air Force Child Custody Orders

Great news for divorced parents in the Air Force – child custody orders will be considered when determining military assignments. This means that Air Force personnel who are co-parents can not only seek to defer their PCS if it would result in moving them away from their children, but the Air Force will consider proximity to children for duty stations.

While some military members have had success using “connections”, or even the compassionate reassignment provisions to try to locate near their children, the Air Force is the first branch to formalize consideration of Airmen’s child custody orders in assignments.

The Air Force press release presented this as: “The Department of the Air Force recently announced great news for parents – the ability to defer an assignment or be stationed near their children with a court-ordered child custody decree.”

The official policy, stated in a new Air Force Guidance Memorandum to Air Force Instruction 36-2110, Total Force Assignments, is:

“Assignment authorities will attempt to facilitate the assignment or deferment of Airmen with a court-ordered child custody decree to the geographic location of the children. The geographic location is the region that allows an Airman to co-parent within a reasonable traveling distance. Airmen are still required to fulfill the obligations inherent to all Airmen and they are considered for assignments to fill valid manning requirements and perform duties which require the skills in which they are trained subject to PCS eligibility. Provided the criteria are met, Airmen may be considered for an assignment where they can reside close to their children. Airmen should not make decisions on future service, career development, or family planning based on the assumption they can always be assigned to the location where their children reside. All Airmen should expect periods of separation during their careers. When a court-ordered child custody assignment or deferment is not in the best interest of the AF, then, regardless of the provisions in this attachment, the assignment is not made.

(Emphasis added).

Eligibility for Court-Ordered Child Custody Consideration Programs

The new AFI creates the Court-Ordered Child Custody Assignment Consideration Program (CCCA) and Court-Ordered Child Custody Deferment Consideration Program (CCCP). Per para. 35.4, some general criteria apply to both programs:

  • Airman must be “named party on a court-ordered child custody decree for joint or physical custody of their biological or adopted child.”
  • Youngest child is under age 17 at the time of the application.

Child Custody AssignmentConsideration

Per para. 35.2.3, Airmen wishing for the Air Force to relocate them to the same geographic area as their children must meet the following requirements:

  • 41 months on station before applying for assignment consideration, with a PCS to follow after at least 48 months on station.
  • The Airman has not already been selected for a PCS with an assignment selection date.
  • Airman has required retainability

Child Custody Deferment Consideration

Airmen already at a duty station who wish to defer a PCS to remain near their children must meet the following requirements:

  • Generally no time limits for applying.
  • The Airman has not already been selected for a PCS with an assignment selection date.
  • Airman has required retainability.

Needs of the Air Force vs. Child Custody

The CCCA and CCCD programs are not guarantees – they simply mean that the Air Force will consider parenting orders and attempt to accommodate child custody arrangements when determining duty stations. Note this language from the AFI provision quoted above:

When a court-ordered child custody assignment or deferment is not in the best interest of the AF, then, regardless of the provisions in this attachment, the assignment is not made.

As the programs are brand-new, it remains to be seen how successful the Air Force is at stationing its personnel near their children. The Air Force Times reports that a Master Sergeant was the very first Airman to have received an assignment based upon court-ordered child custody, receiving orders for Eglin Air Force Base to be near his child and ex-wife rather than facing real long-distance parenting with an overseas assignment.

Following last year’s introduction of temporary support requirements by the Air Force, this branch of service has made some pretty significant changes in the area of family law. Hopefully this program will be a success that the other branches can emulate.

Child Custody During Deployments

Air Force Child Custody Deployment

Finally, note that this Instruction will NOT exempt Air Force members from deployments – an Airman/parent is subject to being deployed like any other parent. Should a military member be deployed, hopefully he/she lives in a state (like Colorado) which has adopted the Uniform Deployed Parents Custody & Visitation Act which prevents family law judges from taking away a military parent’s child custody solely by virtue of a deployment.

Air Force

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