Although the Virginia Military Parents Equal Protection Act helps define situations where a military parent is deploying, it is important that military parents have a custody order in place to avoid unnecessary court battles. In such situations, third-party custody designations need to be considered. Yet another consideration is that of remarriage and the role of the stepparent. While the military may require a Family Care Plan, be advised that any designation within that document will not trump Virginia law. Custody does not legally transfer with a designation made by the parents nor will it with a Power of Attorney. Courts have the sole right to assign custody, not the parents (though courts will usually approve any arrangement agreed upon by both parents). Also, keep in mind that third parties such as step-parents or grandparents are rarely given custody over a parent. There have been many cases where a military parent felt he/she had custody covered only to have the children be given to the other parent while deployed because of the lack of a proper court order prior to leaving.
How your custody order is written can mean the difference between relative harmony between parents or a costly legal battle due to loopholes. It is important that if you are in the military that you have the right legal documents in place to protect your rights and that of your children.