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Vicki: Does Military Dad Get the Kids?

Ms. Vicki

Dear Ms. Vicki,

My wife and I are separated and we have two kids together. I'm active duty in the Army and have been the sole provider for my wife and kids.

She has never worked nor taken care of the kids on her own. I currently have the kids in my care because she is not capable of providing for them at all. She can't read, write, speak or understand English as well as she needs to in order to be capable of being employed in the U.S.

She now tells me that she wants to request spousal support from me when I'm the one taking care of our kids. I think she is going to seek custody as well, even though she doesn't have her own place or a job. I know the kids are in great care with me because I have been providing for them alone for as long as we've been married.

What should I do about this? I really don't want to bad talk my kid’s mother, but she's really a sad situation. I see now exactly why her ex-husband got custody of their daughter.

Desperate Dad

Dear Dad,

I understand. In most situations like this, a judge would rule in favor of the children staying where they are (with you) because of their current stability with you. Instead of waiting for her to file for custody, if I were you I would seek legal advice and file for custody of the children myself. That will give you a better chance to establish a permanent legal arrangement. That move would also be wise because if your wife has not acclimated to life in the United States, who’s to say she won’t take the children from your home and never return with them?

On the other hand, I understand that she doesn’t speak English and she’s not employed, but that doesn’t make her an ill-equipped mother who can’t care for her children. If she is not abusive or in an unstable environment, she would most likely get visitation with the children. Because she is still your wife, she could be granted spousal support, too. I know that marriages end every day, but when children are involved it’s important to try and do the right thing for the children, even if you don’t like their mother very much.

Again, I think you should get some legal advice. Since you have the children in your home with you, I don’t think they should be moved to a different environment without a custody order. Please let me know what happens.

Ms. Vicki

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Ms. Vicki, a native of Dallas, has been the ‘Dear Abby’ for the military community since her column began in 2005. A licensed therapist and licensed clinical social worker, Ms. Vicki holds a Master of Science in social work and a Master of Arts in clinical psychology. Her column has appeared in the Washington (D.C.) Times and in the Heidelberg (Germany) Post Herald. She has been featured on CNN, CBS, ABC and NBC.

Ms. Vicki has retired from writing new columns for Although Ms. Vicki is no longer offering new advice on, you can still email military benefits questions to our Questions and Benefits team. Need military spouse career help? Email our Dear Career writers.