5 Adoption Options

A crayon drawing of a happy family

Military life is no longer a barrier to adoption as it once was. However, the adoption process can be a complicated journey and goes more smoothly with a little guidance and information. Here are five adoption options that prospective military parents should know about:

1. Agency adoption

Adoption agencies can be public or private. Agencies are regulated by the state and licensed to place children with prospective adoptive parents. Public agencies are state-run, and the children they place are predominantly foster children of elementary or high school age. Private agencies are often run by social service organizations. Private agencies usually have more infants available for adoption, and birth parents often have a say in who adopts their child.

2. Independent adoption

Independent adoption involves a direct arrangement between the birth mother/parents and the adoptive parents. This type of adoption is common and legal in most states but can be heavily regulated. Check your state laws before exploring this option. You can use your own resources and networking skills to find a child or work with an intermediary, such as a doctor or lawyer.

3. Identified adoption

Adoption through identification is a blend of independent and agency adoptions styles. Usually, prospective parents locate a birth mother and then both sets of parents request that an agency step in to provide counsel and handle the adoption process.

4. International adoption

International adoptions involve a citizen of one country adopting a child who is a citizen of a different country. Agencies specializing in international adoption can help you with this complicated yet popular option.

5. Open adoption

This option involves some communication among the adoptive parents, the birth parents and the child. The adoptive and birth parents decide how much communication will occur and how much identifying information is shared before and after the adoption. Therefore, no two open adoptions are the same.

Military OneSource offers adoption specialty consultations so you don’t have to navigate the adoption process alone. Call Military OneSource at 800-342-9647 or set up a live chat today to schedule your consultation and begin exploring adoption options. OCONUS/International? View for calling options.

Adoption – The Essentials

Service member and his daughter

Military life isn’t a barrier to adoption anymore. Adoption agencies now know that military families can provide adopted children with wonderful homes. Adoption can be a great way to start and grow your family; however, you should make this decision carefully and consider some aspects unique to military life when deciding to adopt.

Here are the essentials about adopting while in the military:

Know your adoption options.

Military families have five adoption options, including agency adoption, independent adoption, identified adoption (a blend of agency and independent adoption), open adoption (where there is communication between adoptive parents, the birth parents and the child) and international adoption. You’ll want to know the ins and outs of each approach so you can think carefully about what kind of support you’ll need in the process. Military OneSource can help you get started.

Relevant Articles:

Relevant Resources:

The high costs associated with adoption can deter some families from considering it as a viable option. Fortunately, there are resources available for military families to help you finance the future of your family. From assistance with adoption expenses to tax credits and non-chargeable leave, you will be well supported with this major life decision.

Relevant Articles:

Relevant Resources:

Learn about overseas adoption.

Adoption can be more complicated when living overseas, but there are agencies and support groups to guide you. Many military families in the same situation successfully adopt every year. If the timing’s right for you to grow your family, living overseas won’t be an obstacle to adoption. We offer an overview about the process and suggestions for a successful adoption.

Relevant Articles:

Relevant Resources:

Know what to expect in an adoption home study.

Adoption involves a lot of steps, one of which is the home study. It’s a standard part of the adoption process. Working closely with a social worker or counselor, a home study can take several months. Be patient. Understand that a thorough home study is in the best interest of you and the child you plan to welcome into your family. Here, you’ll find what’s involved and tips for completing a successful home study.

Relevant Articles:

Relevant Resources:

Life Happens: Legal Assistance and Paperwork for Service Members and Families

Hand stamping paperwork

The information contained on this website is designed to educate and inform service members and their families on their personal legal affairs. Nothing contained in the website is a substitute for the competent legal advice of a licensed attorney. Service members and their families seeking legal advice should consult the staff of the nearest installation Legal Assistance Office.

You know the drill: Paperwork comes with the military. It also comes into play for legal protections in both your professional and personal life. Hassles can arise when something happens and you don’t have your paperwork in order.

In certain cases, you may need a military lawyer for advice or representation. Military OneSource can help connect you to the legal assistance you require. Call 800-342-9647.

Organize your life: Legal paperwork helps you be prepared

There are some legal documents every service member — and citizen — should have:

Last will and testament. A will lets you decide what happens to your property in the event of your death. Otherwise, the courts will decide for you, and likely impose a fee for doing so. A will is often the principal document in an estate plan, in which you determine what happens to your money, real estate, investments, Social Security, life insurance and business interests. If you have a will, consider updating it based on your family’s current needs.

Power of attorney. This document allows you to name a trusted person to act on your behalf on legal or money matters while you’re deployed or otherwise unable to represent yourself. It permits them to do your banking and buy or sell property, among other transactions.

Living will. With a living will, you can declare ahead of time what medical treatment you want — or don’t want — should you suffer a serious injury or illness that leaves you unable to make such decisions for yourself.

When life gets messy: Know your legal options

Sometimes things happen in life and you need legal help. You can contact your legal assistance office for more information on many issues, including:

Divorce. Typically, divorce is governed by state and local laws and procedures, but being in the military can present issues specific to the services ─ ranging from affecting military benefits such as housing to supporting family members upon separation. Understand your rights and obligations.

Child custody and adoption. Legal assistance can be helpful in several situations involving children. These can include preparing a family care plan that can help provide direction to the person caring for your children when you deploy. And if you adopt a child in another country, be aware that you will have to follow up with paperwork and additional steps in the United States as well when you return stateside.

Other legal matters. There are a range of other issues — from reporting crimes to alcohol and drug offenses — for which you’ll need legal assistance or representation. Use the Armed Forces Legal Assistance Locator to find your nearest legal assistance office.

You can seek assistance from military defense counsel if you’re facing administrative discharge or criminal prosecution by the military. Military defense counsel are certified judge advocates who provide independent legal representation and confidential legal advice for service members suspected of an offense or facing adverse administrative actions.

The information contained on this website is designed to educate and inform service members and their families on their personal legal affairs. Nothing contained in the website is a substitute for the competent legal advice of a licensed attorney. Service members and their families seeking legal advice should consult the staff of the nearest installation Legal Assistance Office.

Writing a Last Will and Testament

Service member gives legal counsel

The information contained on this website is designed to educate and inform service members and their families on their personal legal affairs. Nothing contained in the website is a substitute for the competent legal advice of a licensed attorney. Service members and their families seeking legal advice should consult the staff of the nearest installation Legal Assistance Office.

Although writing a last will and testament is not required, it is recommended that service members and their families have wills, even if they do not have children or valuable property. A valid will is a legally binding document that ensures your wishes are carried out after your death. If you haven’t created one already, here are several reasons why you should consider preparing a will.

Importance of the will

If you own property, you’ll want to determine who receives ownership in the event of your death. Your estate may increase in value after mortgage replacement or general appreciation, for instance, but if you don’t have a will, you won’t have a say in how it gets divided.

A will is needed to establish legal guardianship. As a parent, a will allows you to determine the appropriate guardians for your children. Without one, a judge will choose guardians for your children and determine who raises them.

When you can write and update a will

Any person age 18 or older who is of sound mind can write a will. But keep in mind that if you write a will under life-threatening circumstances, it could be challenged. And if you do not write your will personally, but rather a friend or family member writes it for you, your will could be challenged or revoked. An attorney at your legal assistance office can help you draw up a will and any associated estate-planning documents.

You can change your will at any time, as long as you meet certain conditions, such as rewriting the entire will or using an amendment called a codicil. You may want to update your will with your attorney if:

  • You get married or divorced
  • A birth or death in your family affects your plan
  • You have a large increase or decrease in the value of your property
  • The person you name as executor, guardian or trustee dies or becomes unavailable to serve
  • The laws associated with estate taxes change
  • You change your state of legal residence
  • You wish to change how you want your property distributed

Make the right preparations for your family and estate. Your legal assistance office can help you create a will that suits your desires and needs. If your legal assistance attorney isn’t able to provide the help you need, they can likely help you find a civilian attorney.

The information contained on this website is designed to educate and inform service members and their families on their personal legal affairs. Nothing contained in the website is a substitute for the competent legal advice of a licensed attorney. Service members and their families seeking legal advice should consult the staff of the nearest installation Legal Assistance Office.

What to Expect When Meeting With Your Lawyer

Female soldier giving counsel

The information contained on this website is designed to educate and inform service members and their families on their personal legal affairs. Nothing contained in the website is a substitute for the competent legal advice of a licensed attorney. Service members and their families seeking legal advice should consult the staff of the nearest installation Legal Assistance Office.

Knowing what to expect when you meet with an attorney can make your meeting more productive and efficient. Get the most out of your time together by following these tips before and during your meeting.

  • Come prepared. Bring all papers and documents related to your situation. If you aren’t sure whether or not to bring something, bring it just in case.
  • Be honest. Speak openly to your lawyer about your situation, and tell him or her everything you know. The only way you can get accurate legal advice is if you tell the full story to the best of your knowledge.
  • Understand privileged communications. Any information you provide to your attorney is private and privileged under law. This is in accordance with professional guidelines and rules of conduct. Your lawyer can’t disclose the contents of your meeting to anyone. If you give your lawyer specific permission to tell someone, then he or she may do so. However, there are a few exceptions to privileged communication. For instance, if the information you reveal suggests that harm could come to you or someone else.
  • Expect advice and discussions only in person. Your attorney likely won’t discuss cases or give advice over the phone or by email. This is for your privacy and protection.
  • Seek advice before you have a problem. It can sometimes be easier to prevent a legal problem before it happens than to solve an existing one. Don’t hesitate to seek legal advice before you act.
  • Understand that some legal services may not be available. Attorneys at a legal assistance office may not be able to help with your particular situation. Their services are intended to address personal, civil and consumer matters. Some issues are outside the scope of legal assistance. However, a legal assistance attorney can refer you to civilian counsel to handle those matters.
  • Be aware of potential costs. Although most services within a legal assistance office are provided at no cost to service members, you’ll have to pay any court or agency fees. You may also need private civilian counsel. If so, ask your legal assistance attorney if your case qualifies for pro bono representation under the American Bar Association’s Legal Assistance for Military Personnel.
  • Know your attorney. Your legal assistance attorney will be either a military judge advocate or a civilian attorney authorized by the judge advocate general to provide legal assistance, such as advising clients on personal legal affairs.

Where to find legal assistance

  • Legal assistance offices — These are located on almost every installation and ship. Use the Armed Forces Legal Services locator to search by branch of service, state or ZIP code.
  • MilitaryINSTALLATIONS — Search for a “Program or service.” Choose from “Legal Services/JAG.” Find your installation, and select “Legal.”

The information contained on this website is designed to educate and inform service members and their families on their personal legal affairs. Nothing contained in the website is a substitute for the competent legal advice of a licensed attorney. Service members and their families seeking legal advice should consult the staff of the nearest installation Legal Assistance Office.

Military Legal Resources Available to You

Hand stamping paperwork

The information contained on this website is designed to educate and inform service members and their families on their personal legal affairs. Nothing contained in the website is a substitute for the competent legal advice of a licensed attorney. Service members and their families seeking legal advice should consult the staff of the nearest installation Legal Assistance Office.

When legal issues arise, service members and their families have a number of free resources at the ready. Legal assistance is available whether you need an expert to review a contract or help with estate planning. If you need to finalize deployment-related legal documents, legal assistance can help. You can also get advice on mediation for child custody. Here are some of your options.

Free legal help from the legal assistance office

Your installation’s legal assistance office can serve you in many situations where you may need legal advice. They may also help in completing legal documents. Representation in court is not available for service members or family members. However, active and retired service members and family members are eligible for free legal assistance, including:

  • Drafting powers of attorney
  • Drafting wills
  • Guiding estate planning
  • Providing family law advice (in areas such as adoption, marriage, divorce, alimony and property division)
  • Reviewing contracts and leases
  • Providing notary services
  • Offering consumer advice (ranging from debt management and credit reporting to ID theft)
  • Helping with taxes
  • Assisting in immigration and naturalization issues
  • Advising in civil lawsuits
  • Protecting service member rights and responsibilities
  • Advising clients on misdemeanors and minor traffic offenses

The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act offers help with a range of rights and benefits, from interest rate reductions to eviction protection. Know your rights and available perks.

For document translation services, contact Military OneSource Specialty Consultations. You can get help translating a lease during an overseas move, or with documents such as a birth certificate or marriage license. Call a Military OneSource consultant at 800-342-9647 for document translation or legal matters.

Where legal assistance offices cannot help

There are other issues where legal assistance offices won’t be able to assist. They include:

  • Providing legal advice to third parties or opposing parties on the same issue
  • Claims against the government and serious criminal matters
  • Legal matters concerning your privately owned business
  • In-court representation (although legal assistance attorneys generally do not represent clients in court, some service branches offer the Expanded Legal Assistance Program, which allows for in-court representation in limited cases). See below for help finding a private civilian lawyer.

Use the Armed Forces Legal Assistance Locator to find the nearest legal assistance office.

Help with other legal matters: private lawyers, military defense counsel

For criminal matters or other issues not available through your installation’s legal assistance office, you’ll most likely want to consider a private civilian attorney. If you’re facing discharge or criminal prosecution by the military, you can seek assistance from military defense counsel.

Seeking nonmilitary counsel: Services provided within a legal assistance office are free. You may also need to pay for private civilian counsel. If so, ask your legal assistance attorney if your case qualifies for pro bono or reduced fee representation. If not, ask about private civilian legal representation available in your community.

Seeking military defense counsel: Military defense counsels are legal offices separate from your local legal assistance office, and are available if you are facing prosecution by the military. As a service member, you have the right to be represented at your court-martial.

Military defense counsels are certified judge advocates who provide independent legal representation and confidential legal advice for service members suspected of an offense or facing adverse administrative actions.

Military defense counsel can help you in many situations, including pretrial investigations, investigations, and administrative separation proceedings. They can also help with letters of reprimand, denial or revocation of a security clearance, and court-martial proceedings.

Each of the service branches has a different name for the defense counsel offices:

Find the contact information for your nearest defense counsel in your installation telephone directory. Your installation trial defense service office, defense services office or area defense counsel office may have a local website with helpful information.

The information contained on this website is designed to educate and inform service members and their families on their personal legal affairs. Nothing contained in the website is a substitute for the competent legal advice of a licensed attorney. Service members and their families seeking legal advice should consult the staff of the nearest installation Legal Assistance Office.

Obtaining and Renewing Military ID and Common Access Cards During COVID-19

Hands passing ID card

Current as of Sept. 16, 2020


Department of Defense Commitment

The DOD is committed to protecting the nation’s security as well as your safety and that of your family. This includes temporarily updating issuance and renewal processes for ID cards and CACs to ensure your continued access to health care and other benefits during this time of increased precaution and restrictions.

Your military benefits, like access to commissaries and exchanges and health care, tie into your military identification card. With current stay-at-home orders in place in most areas because of coronavirus disease 2019, you may be wondering how military ID, Common Access Card and Volunteer Logical Access Credentials issuance and renewal will work.

Review the following details to learn about the temporary updates (in place through June 30, 2021) that change issuance and renewal processes during this COVID-19 pandemic.

Renewing military ID cards (expiring on or after Jan. 1, 2020)

The DOD has expanded online ID card renewals and reissuances, enrollment and eligibility updates, and replacement of lost or stolen cards for military and their family members through June 30, 2021. Other updates continuing through June 30, 2021, include:

  • Contact your nearest RAPIDS site for assistance or schedule an appointment to renew your ID card or get a replacement if it is lost or stolen. Note that cards that are remotely issued from online application will have an expiration date of one year from the date of issuance.
  • Use your ID card if you are a mobilized reserve member, so you can continue to receive active-duty benefits for yourself and your eligible family members.
  • Use your ID card if your eligibility has not changed, and your ID is due to expire on or after Jan. 1, 2020. Your benefits are secure through June 30, 2021.
  • Do not use your ID card if your eligibility has ended. The DOD will verify your eligibility electronically before taking away an expired ID card with an expiration date on or after Jan. 1, 2020.

If your status is listed in the Individuals column of the following chart, you are eligible to continue using your current military ID while you take the step(s) noted to renew your ID card that is set to expire on or after Jan. 1, 2020.

IndividualsImpact to BenefitsSteps to Take
Sponsors and dependents turning age 65You must be enrolled in Medicare Part B for continued benefits.
  1. Check milConnect to see whether Medicare Part B has been reported.
  2. Contact your nearest RAPIDS site for assistance and have the following ready:
    1. Completed DD Form 1172-2, indicating that sponsor is providing more than 50% support
    2. Proof of enrollment in Medicare Part B
Dependents turning age 21You must be enrolled as a full-time student, be approved as an incapacitated dependent or be registered for TRICARE Young Adult for continued eligibility.
  1. Students, contact your nearest RAPIDS site for assistance and have the following ready:
    1. Completed DD Form 1172-2, indicating that sponsor is providing more than 50% support
    2. Proof of enrollment as a full-time student
  2. Incapacitated dependents, contact your nearest RAPIDS site for assistance and have the following ready:
    1. Completed DD Form 1172-2
    2. Medical Sufficiency Statement
    3. Financial Dependency Determination
  3. TRICARE Young Adult, contact your nearest RAPIDS site for assistance and have the following ready:
    1. Completed DD Form 1172-2
    2. Proof of enrollment in TRICARE Young Adult
Guard and reserve members and dependentsBenefits for National Guard and reserve members and their dependents are tied to the member’s active-duty status. If the member’s active-duty status is extended, benefits are extended as well.
  1. If active-duty status is extended, no action is needed.
  2. If active-duty status is completed:
    1. Must enroll in TRICARE Select online.
Retiring service members and dependentsBenefits for members who are retiring and their dependents are tied to the member’s status.
  1. Must enroll in TRICARE Select online.

Military OneSource Adoption Consultations

Service member and his daughter

The mobile military life isn’t a barrier to adoption anymore. Military families can provide adopted children with wonderful homes. Adoption can be a great way to start and grow your family. But there are some aspects to adoption that are unique to military life.

A Military OneSource adoption consultant can guide you on the process. Our adoption consultants are specially trained in military adoptions and will help you successfully navigate the process.

Contact Military OneSource 24/7.

You can get personalized help 365 days a year by telephone and online.

Frequently asked questions about Military OneSource adoption consultations

Q: What types of information can a Military OneSource adoption counselor provide?

A: Military OneSource consultants offer information on:

  • Beginning the adoption process and the types of adoptions.
  • Locating military-related financial assistance.
  • Identifying agencies that can help you with your specific adoption needs.
  • Understanding state-specific adoption requirements.
  • Provide information on adoption agencies and support groups, and general adoption literature.

Contact Military OneSource 24/7.

You can get personalized help 365 days a year by telephone and online.

Overseas? See OCONUS calling options.

Prefer to live chat? Start now.

Q: Does the military offer adoption reimbursement to families?

A: Yes, eligible service members can receive up to $2,000 per adopted child and up to $5,000 per calendar year.

Q: Who can take advantage of adoption consultations?

A: Military OneSource adoption consultations are available to active duty, National Guard and reserve service members (regardless of activation status) and their immediate families.

Q: How do I schedule my adoption consultation?

A: Call Military OneSource to schedule a free adoption specialty consultation at 800-342-9647.

Q: What other adoption resources does Military OneSource offer?

A: Military OneSource has information online for many aspects of military adoption, such as adoptions overseas, adopting children with special needs, types of adoption, adoption benefits and more.

Get the adoption support you need

Have more questions? We can help! You don’t have to go through the adoption process alone. Call Military OneSource to schedule a no-cost adoption specialty consultation at 800-342-9647. OCONUS/International? Click here for calling options. Get the answers you need and help smooth the way to adoption by making an appointment with a consultant today.