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General Military Questions

Can Single Parents Join the Military?

Joining the military is often a life-changing and positive option for many individuals. Therefore, new recruits often wonder can single parents join the military.

While the Department of Defense policy does not allow single parents to join the military, there are still some options for single parents.

Specifically, the Department of Defense states the military branches may not enlist unmarried persons who have custody of dependents under 18.

However, the Secretary of Defense might grant a waiver, although it is rare.

In the past, new potential recruits would sign over custody of their children to a family member to qualify for service.

However, some military branches have rules in place for those who give up custody with the intent to regain custody later.

The Department of Defense created instructions for Family Care Plans, so the requirements are the same for all military branches.

Related ArticleMilitary Childcare: 8 Great Options

Joining the Army as a Single Parent

Joining the Army as a single parent is often difficult, but those already in the service have parental leave

When you sign up for the Army, you cannot have custody of minor dependents.

Some new recruits plan to give custody to a trusted adult and regain custody after the initial training period.

However, that is not advisable.

The Army has new recruits sign a document that shows that it violates the contract signed when enlisting if they try to regain custody.

Therefore, it could be a fraud, and the service member will face separation from the Army.

There are some waivers available for new recruits considering the Army National Guard or the Reserves.

In the Army National Guard or Reserve Components, as long as a Family Care Plan is in place that meets all the necessary requirements, a waiver is possible.

Joining the Navy as a Single Parent

single parents in the navy

If you are wondering can single parents join the Navy, you may be surprised to learn that the Navy is open to the idea and may offer a waiver.

According to the Navy website, “Yes, you can. However, due to the risks associated with serving in the military, the Navy requires a waiver for any single-parent applicant.”

A Family Care Plan is also a requirement, but an FCP is really a commonsense tool for any service member, single or not, to ensure their dependents are cared for in case of deployment.

Related Article Navy Age Limits

Joining the Air Force as a Single Parent

air force single parents

Like the Army, the Air Force understands that some new recruits give up the custody of their children for various reasons that have nothing to do with wanting to enlist.

However, the Air Force does not want potential recruits to give up custody of their children in order to join.

Also, new recruits found to have given up custody to get into the Air Force with the intention to regain custody later will result in a permanent disqualification from service in the Air Force.

Also, those who join will sign a certification that when they enlisted, it is without the intention of regaining custody of their children later.

That said, rumor has it that it is possible to get a waiver if you have a solid FCP in place. You’ll need to talk with a recruiter to find out if those rumors are true.

Joining the Marine Corps as a Single Parent

can you join the marines if you are a single parent

The Marines do not accept new recruits who are single parents.

Also, recruits who are married and have children will need a waiver to enlist.

The Marines take it even further by requiring married recruits with multiple dependents to join the Marine Reserves rather than be on active duty.

Those who are single parents who chose to give up custody can do so.

However, they must wait an entire year before enlisting in the Marines under the waiver.

Joining the Coast Guard as a Single Parent

The Coast Guard understands the challenges of finding balance between military service and family

While the Coast Guard does not fall under the Department of Defense, it still has rules regarding single parents signing a service commitment.

Until recently, the Coast Guard did not allow single parents with dependents to sign up for active duty.

A new policy announced in November 2022 states that single parents can apply with an approved waiver and a dependent care plan.


Those who are single parents with dependents struggle when wondering can single parents join the military.

For many, the military is a  path toward a career and higher education.

However, the military often doesn’t allow single parents to join the military because of potential hardships for the service member and their children.

In some cases, a new recruit could have someone else take over custody of their children. 

But some military branches frown on this action, and service embers who use this tactic to regain custody after training may find themselves separated from the military.

In other cases, there are waivers available. While waivers aren’t guaranteed, candidates with excellent ASVAB scores and an interest in a high-demand occupation might find it easier. 


Rob V.
Single Parent Military

Single Parent Military

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The military has policies regarding whether or not single parents can join. Learn more about the policies behind each branch, and what you can do about it.
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