Military father holding baby wrapped in American flag

Military Relocation and Child Custody Orders in the Air Force

Great news for divorced parents on the military relocation and child custody front, at least in the Air Force. Parenting orders will now 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 accommodate the interplay between military relocation and child custody, 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 term for considering military relocation and child custody together is 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:

  • The member 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 Assignment Consideration

Per para. 35.2.3, Air Force members who wish to relocate 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 member has not already been selected for a PCS with an assignment selection date.
  • The member has required retainability

Child Custody Deferment Consideration

Air Force personnel 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 member has not already been selected for a PCS with an assignment selection date.
  • The member has required retainability.

Needs of the Air Force vs. Military Relocation and Child Custody

The CCCA and CCCD programs are not guarantees that military relocation and child custody will be considered together – 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.

Military relocation and child custody in the Air ForceMilitary relocation and child custody in the Air Force

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 military relocation and child custody program will be a success that the other branches can emulate.

Child Custody During Deployments

Finally, note that the military relocation and child custody 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.

More Information on Military Relocation and Child Custody

Colorado has a “child relocation” statute, C.R.S. 14-10-129(2)(c), which applies not just to military relocation and child custody, but to any parent who wants to move away with the children after child custody orders have been entered. So if you are a military parent facing a PCS, and are unable to defer the assignment or to move near enough to the children to continue exercising parenting time (which presumably means one of other installations in Colorado Springs), read our relocation of children article in the Colorado Family Law Guide.

It is not easy getting permission to move children over the objection of the other parent, but one of the factors the court is required to consider is the reason for the proposed move – and in a military relocation and child custody situation where the divorced parent has no choice, that factor at least would tend to go strongly in favor of the military parent.

Note that there are still several other important factors, so simply being made to move in a PCS alone will not assure the military parent of victory. But that parent will start out ahead of many other parents trying to move who have less compelling reasons, such as wanting to be nearer the beach! So now parents in the Air Force have two options – applying for the military relocation and child custody program, or seeking permission to relocate the children from the court.

Award-Winning Military Relocation and Child Custody Law Firm

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