Can A Single Mom Join The Army? It’s Complicated

Serving your country is a noble act. In fact, there are approximately 74,000 women enlisted in the Army and more than 200,000 women in all military branches.

Not only are you defending your country, but you are also able to earn a good living, qualify for military benefits, and potentially build a career from the ground up.

As a single mom who may be struggling financially or unsure of what her future holds, it may sound like a great career choice to get her life on solid footing. But can a single mom actually join the army (or any branch of the military)? Possibly, but there are several caveats. Let’s dive into the details.

Can a single mom join the Army?

Technically, yes. A single mom can join the Army. However, single moms with custody of their children are prohibited from enlisting.

This decision was made for the safety and well-being of the mother’s children, due to the long periods of deployment that active-duty enlistment may entail. According to the Department of Defense Qualification Standards for Enlistment, the military will not enlist any “unmarried individuals with custody of any dependents under the age of 18.”

Non-custodial single parent

The only way for a single mother to enlist in the military is if her children are in the custody of another guardian, like a family member or ex-spouse.

The single mother must have a Family Care Plan (FCP) in place in order to enlist. The Family Care Plan is a document that states the specific measures that a military member takes to ensure that her family is cared for during her absence.

According to the U.S. Army, “…it is the Soldier’s responsibility to implement an FCP and ensure their Family Members are taken care of when the Soldier is unavailable.”

Giving up custody to join the military

In the past, prospective military member were able to give up custody of their children before joining the Army. However, separating parents and children for long periods of time due to deployment was determined to be too risky for the development of children and too much of a distraction for the enlisted parent, so the practice was banned.

In order for a single mom to join the Army, she must have given up custody of her children for at least one year prior to joining. In addition, she must certify that she did not give up her children solely for the reason of joining the army.

The custodial restrictions remain in place for the entirety of a soldier’s enlistment. This means a single mother is prohibited from enlisting and then regaining custody of her children after initial training.

If it is discovered that a parent gave up custody for the sole reason of joining the Army or if a parent attempts to regain custody after enlisting, it is grounds for stiff punishment, including discharge.


While it is possible for a single mom to be in the Army (11% of Army soldiers are currently single parents), it is not an easy task. A parent must give up complete custody of their children if they wish to enlist. In addition, they must not regain custody for the entirety of their enlistment.

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