Child contact while serving in the military
Military service can impact the wellbeing and welfare needs of the whole family, especially with the added challenges of a relationship breakdown. Read this guide on how you can find safe and healthy ways to maintain contact with your children whilst serving.
The wellbeing and welfare of children should be paramount in any relationship breakdown and whilst going through divorce. Parents putting their own differences aside to maintain a healthy relationship with all family members cannot be underestimated.
This can be made more challenging when a serving parent is stationed away from the children’s hometown, or away on deployment. Contact arrangements can be of particular relevance when parties separate and go through the divorce process, and there is a change of the parties living arrangements.
Make plans for contact early
If you know you are being deployed, make plans together to ensure the children understand why there will be a lengthy period of separation. Make some memories that the children can think about while you’re away.
Depending on the age of the children, there may be charities and organisations that can help with story books, teddies and recorded stories. These can help children during times of separation. Unit Welfare Teams may have some suggestions too about memory boards, deployment countdowns and activities that they could get involved with.
Plan with your ex-partner how you will maintain contact whilst you’re away. Can the children email, leave voice messages, FaceTime etc? If there’s a time difference, consider sending the children a voice message or video message that they can listen too when they get home from school or when they wake up.
Where to stay for contact
If you don’t live in the hometown of your children, consider whether you have family or friends that you and the children can stay with for your period of contact. Are there any military units close by that may have family rooms on camp that can be used for contact weekends, or short breaks? Perhaps there is surplus family accommodation that can be rented?
Weekends or breaks with the children don’t have to be hotels and lengthy journeys for them. Try, where possible, to maximise the happy time with them rather than the children spending most of the weekend in a car travelling.
Some Service Associations and Charities have accommodation to rent such as campervans, boats, and cabins. Explore whether any of these options are available to you and your children.
Other options to avoid costly hotels could be reaching out to local organisations such as the Armed Forces & Veterans Breakfast Clubs – you may find service personnel or veterans in the area that have accommodation you can use (this can be a source of information for activities and events that you and the children can join in with too).
We understand that maintaining a rigid contact arrangement may not always be possible when you’re serving. Even when on home soil, such things as duty weekends, covering leave periods, training exercises etc, can all lead to short notice cancellations of planned time off.
Maintaining a healthy relationship with your ex-partner is key to enabling some flexibility.
Annual leave not aligning with school holidays?
The introduction of the Covenant ‘Duty of Due Regard’, introduced on 22 November 2022, reinforces Defence’s unwavering commitment to support our world-class Armed Forces, and their families, as well as those who have previously served their country.
This means that local authorities must now consider how their decision-making impacts upon members of the Armed Forces community. The Government press release uses the example that schools should consider if a parent is a member of the Armed Forces community, and whether they should be given consideration to their requirement for flexible leave, depending upon the requirements of their military career.
Again, maintaining a healthy relationship with your ex-partner is key to maintaining a healthy relationship with your children.
At Wolferstans, we are mindful of the complexities service life can bring to separation, divorce and child contact.
Our Armed Forces Engagement Champion can suggest charities and local organisations that may be able to support you and your children to continue a meaningful relationship.
Please get in touch to discuss how we can help you by calling 01752 292201.