Many military families choose to adopt a child. Sometimes it's a child they've met during an overseas deployment. Others choose a child from within the U.S. community where they're stationed or from someplace else entirely. Whatever the situation, it's essential for military families, just like civilians, to have as much information as possible about the process and the legal steps required for adoption before they begin.
The military provides some important benefits for service members who adopt a child under 18. They don't qualify for leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act. However, thanks to a law passed in 2006, they are entitled to 21 days of non-chargeable leave in addition to regular leave in order to bond with their new child and make child care arrangements if needed for the future.
If both parents are in the military, only one is entitled to this leave. Like all leaves, it's granted at the discretion of the military member's commanding officer. However, these officers are encouraged to approve them. Each of the military services has its own specific adoption leave policy, so it's essential to know what you're entitled to before you make the request.
Reimbursement for Adoption Costs
Service members also receive up to $2,000 to help pay for adoption expenses. If two children are adopted within the same year, they are entitled to reimbursement of up to $5,000 of adoption expenses. If both parents are in the military, only one is entitled to this reimbursement. The forms for this reimbursement need to be submitted within a year from the finalization of the adoption.
These benefits also apply if a service member legally adopts his or her step-child. However, when non-military spouses adopt a military member's child, they are not reimbursed.
New Benefits on the Horizon for Veterans
While all of these benefits currently apply only to active duty military personnel, there will be an exception for veterans who are infertile due to an injury or illness suffered as a result of their service thanks to the Military Construction and VA Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2017. However, the benefits provided in that legislation haven't yet taken effect.
There is a wealth of support out there, both formal and informal, for dealing with issues of marriage and children. Installation family centers can usually direct people to an adoption support group on or off base as well as new parent classes. For people considering adoption, these centers or other adoptive parents can likely provide references to legal professionals with experience helping military families navigate the adoption process.
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