Airmen with a court-ordered child custody arrangement will have more say in staying close to their children, thanks to a new policy change.
The Air Force will now take child custody into account, offering airmen the chance to ask for an assignment located near their children, or a deferment to stay near them. That will be the case even if the airman is not married to their co-parent, the service announced Aug. 5.
"We recognize family dynamics don't always look the same and there is not a one-size-fits-all solution to managing people's careers and assignments," Lt. Gen. Brian T. Kelly, deputy chief of staff for Manpower, Personnel and Services, said in a release. "We ask our people to move frequently, and we know that can cause additional stress and sacrifices for their families. This change gives us the flexibility needed to better take care of them."
Officials did note in the release that troops are still required to meet the needs of the service, perform their duties, and stay eligible for permanent change of station moves, despite the additional flexibility the new policy adds.
"This is one we've been working on for a while, and I'm glad we could get it across the finish line," Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright said in the release. "This Air Force life is a family business. As such, we owe it to our teammates to make sure they have every opportunity to keep their family together whenever possible."
Eligible applicants must be named as a parent, either biological or adopted, and have a court-ordered child custody agreement. Assignment matches that meet the need of the Department of the Air Force will be made when possible, the release states.
Airmen can apply through myPers beginning Aug.17.
With the number of custody and visitation issues among military families growing, the Uniform Deployed Parents Custody and Visitation Act was approved by the National Conference on Commissioners on Uniform State Laws in 2012. As of 2020, 14 states have enacted it.
This act requires courts to take into consideration a military parent's deployments and not to use them as the sole basis of determining custody.
The change comes at the conclusion of Gen. David Goldfein’s tenure as Air Force chief of staff. During his time in the post, he has spoken about his interest in retaining female airmen in particular, a challenge often closely connected with the demands of parenthood.
“In our study, the female Air Force officer focus groups discussed children or the desire to have a family as major factors influencing decisions to remain in or leave the service, noting the difficulty of frequent moves, deployments and demanding work schedules,” senior behavioral and social scientist Miriam Mathews wrote for Rand Corp. in 2018.
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