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Deployers with children from a prior marriage: Is special power of attorney enough?

MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho -- An Airman received notification of a deployment tasking three months prior to departure. They are married and have children from a previous relationship. Their first sergeant tells them there may be risks associated with leaving the children in the care of their current spouse without obtaining the consent of the biological parent. The parent asks, "What do I do?"

Each Gunfighter family has their own unique circumstances. There is never one uniform answer when it comes to deploying members taking care of their families and the Gunfighter Legal Office is here to help Airmen evaluate their options: a family care plan, a special power of attorney and a court order.

A family care plan is a document outlining the financial, medical, legal, logistical, educational, monetary and religious arrangements for care of family members upon the absence of the deploying member.

When developing family plans, members are encouraged to visit the legal office, military personnel section customer service element, financial services office, chaplain, Airmen and Family Readiness Center, child care center, and others for guidance.

Military members should ensure designated caregivers have access to adequate funds to care for children and the installation for commissary and exchange benefits. Caregivers should also have important information including date of birth, gender, school grade, name and address of school, school phone number, after-school care facility, special needs and directions to important places.

In turn, schools, day cares and other important places should be made aware of the caregiver's appointment and proper powers of attorney to care for children exist and are delivered to appropriate places.

A power of attorney is a legal document allowing another to conduct certain specified actions on the individual's behalf.

A special power of attorney is a limited power of attorney that only provides the agent the right to act for the individual granting the power to accomplish some specific purpose. A special power of attorney-In Loco Parentis is a document that appoints someone to act in the parent's capacity for a child in certain particulars.

It is especially useful in obtaining medical care for a child. It is important to note third parties may rely on properly drafted powers of attorney, but they are not required to honor powers of attorney.

However, a special power of attorney or a family care plan may not cover all the needs of an Airman.

For example, if a deployer is a single parent or remarried with children from a past marriage, a special power of attorney-In Loco Parentis or a family care plan granted to a non-biological caregiver may not trump the legal rights of the non-custodial biological parent.

Other documents might be relevant, such as prior court orders establishing custody. For some deployers, the best resolution may be a court order specifying custody during a deployment.
Airmen desiring further information concerning these options can visit the legal office for assistance. The legal assistance appointment hours are 8:30 to 11 a.m. Mondays, 1 to 3:30 p.m. Tuesdays and 9 to 11:30 a.m. Thursdays.

Active-duty personnel may see an attorney without an appointment from 8 to 8:30 a.m. Wednesdays. Active-duty and reserve component members, retirees and dependents are extended this same service on from 2 to 2:30 p.m. Wednesdays. However, walk-ins for powers of attorney or counseling on family plans are from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Clients are encouraged to bring any and all documentation to the legal office that may be relevant to the specific circumstances.

Editor's note: The Gunfighter Legal Office values customer feedback concerning the services provided. All clients who utilize the legal assistance services are encouraged to take a brief moment to fill out a survey.

The survey can be found on the front page of the Air Force Legal Assistance Website: https://aflegalassistance.law.af.mil. Client feedback will help the legal office to continually improve its legal services and better serve the military community. For more information and assistance, contact the legal office at (208) 828-2238.