Military Blended-Families: Overseas Assignment and Command Sponsorship of Stepchildren

Here is a scenario in which I recently helped three military blended-families get things in order for overseas reassignment from the San Antonio area (two to Germany and one to a Pacific location).   The scenario looks like this:

  1. The military member’s spouse has children from a previous marriage or relationship (i.e. the military member now has stepchildren).
  2. The spouse never got a court order that gave him or her the following rights regarding the child: (a) primary custody; (b) the right to establish the child’s residence without geographic restriction (i.e. the ability to move worldwide); and (c) the right to apply for and maintain possession of a passport for the child.
  3. The military member gets notified of an overseas assignment that permits him to take along his family; everyone’s excited to go, but there’s an obstacle.
  4. In order for the stepchildren to be “command sponsored” for overseas assignment, the military member and spouse must now produce a court order granting the rights described in paragraph 2, above.

Solving the problem has proven to be relatively quick and easy when the “other biological parent” cooperates.  Technically, a lawsuit must be filed to establish the respective rights of the biological parent.  The lawsuit is called a “Suit Affecting Parent-Child Relationship (SAPCR).”  While the thought of filing a lawsuit may seem scary, it does not require that the parties engage in conflict and legal battle if everyone is of like mind and in agreement from the start.  In cases where the “other biological parent” cooperates, I’ve filed the SAPCR and obtained the necessary court orders in roughly a month’s time.  And, neither the military member, spouse, nor the other parent had to appear in court since I had everyone’s signature on the agreed final order. 

Fortunately, in each of these cases, the military member and spouse came to see me at least 6 to 9 months prior to their overseas move date.  With the proper court orders in hand well ahead of the move, everyone’s smiling an anticipating the unique experiences that only an overseas family assignment can provide.  If you face this or a similar situation, speak with a qualified military family law attorney for more information.

Author Jim Cramp is a retired active duty colonel and the founder and principal attorney at the Cramp Law Firm, PLLC.  The firm provides a spectrum of family law-related services to clients in the greater San Antonio region, across the United States and throughout the world.  The firms also provides Wills and Estates and Probate services.