Unpredictability is a cornerstone of military life. Last minute orders and moves to new locations every 1-4 years are common place and expected. Stressors of separation, frequent moves, and the long hours of the military career add stress to military marriages. Per a 2019 article from Military.com, the overall military divorce rate is about 3% a year. Co-parenting with a service member adds the possibility of them moving out of the area – another stressor on an already stressful situation. The Air Force recently made a move alleviate this stress with a waiver system for Airmen with custody agreements.
On 28 July 2020, the Department of the Air Force released an amendment to the Total Force Assignments, AFI 36-2110. This amendment allows Airmen to apply for a waiver to defer orders or change assignments if they have a court-ordered child custody agreement for children under the age of 17 that specify geographic limitations. If the service member is the biological or adoptive parent and has court-ordered child custody agreements, regardless of current or past marital status, he/she must apply for and submit a waiver through myPers, and submit through the chain of command for amendment to the assignment or deferment. The memorandum is active for one year from the date of writing or until AFI 36-2110 is updated and republished.
Specific criteria for deferments and assignments are outlined in AFI 36-2110. When able, a geographic location within a “reasonable traveling distance” will be considered. Airmen are required to complete all obligations and requirements as needed to be eligible for continuity of service and for Permanent Change of Station. As expected, the needs of the Department of the Air Force remain the priority and assignment matches will be made to the best to their ability to “fill valid manning requirements” in an Airmen’s skill area. Airmen are advised not to “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.” The Air Force is the first service to add this waiver system in support of these co-parenting family dynamics.
The required documentation to apply for the waiver is as follows:
- Birth certificate or adoption decree naming the airman as a biological or adoptive parent
- Divorce decree (if applicable)
- Current child-custody agreement
- Memo signed by the Airman and other party stating there is nothing precluding reassignment near the child’s location – such as a restraining order. This also must have the final recommendation of the Airman’s Commander.
Heather Walsh is a mom, Marine wife, Navy child, blogger, and lover of all things crafty and Disney. Professionally, she is a Physician Assistant and writer and has a passion for helping others to stay positive and supported. She has been writing since KidPix was on a floppy disk! She is one of three women who founded MilMomAdventures, sharing travel and lifestyle tips for the military family at www.milmomadventures.com . When she isn’t crafting with her kiddos, going on the next adventure, or writing for MilMomAdventures, she has contributed to NextGen MilSpouse, Daily Mom Military and Military Disney Tips while reheating her first cup of coffee for the tenth time.