Marines Roll Out Expanded Parental Leave Policy

Mother plays with her daughter during the USO Special Delivery Baby Shower.
Mother plays with her daughter during the USO Special Delivery Baby Shower at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, Oct. 18, 2017. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Gabriela Garcia-Herrera)

The Marine Corps rolled out its version of the expanded family leave policy on Monday, enabling Marines who have recently brought a child into their lives to take 12 weeks of leave.

The policy, announced in an administrative message, "expands authorized leave to 12 weeks for parents following child birth, a qualifying adoption of a minor child, or the placement of a minor child for adoption or long-term foster care" and notes that this period applies to parents regardless of gender.

The Corps' version of the policy does not substantially differ from any of the other military branches as it allows Marines to take the extended time off to be with their new child. The message also notes that the policy takes place immediately but applies to Marines who welcomed a child after Dec. 26, 2022.

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Like the other branches, this policy expands the parental leave benefit to not only include the non-birth parent but also what events -- like fostering -- qualify a service member for the benefit.

While seen by military family advocates as a step forward for troops, the policy arrives almost a month late. The requirement for the new benefits was written into law by Congress in December 2021 with the passage of the annual National Defense Authorization Act. However, despite promises from the Pentagon that the overall policy would be in place by Jan. 1, 2023 -- as the legislation required -- the need for each service to publish its own rules led to uncertainty for many of those currently serving and their families.

The Office of the Secretary of Defense ended up publishing its memo Jan. 4. A spokesman cited the holidays as the reason for the delay. The Air Force, Space Force and Coast Guard allowed their members to use the benefit when they published their respective memos the next day.

The Marine Corps said it was waiting on the Navy to put out its own rules, which finally happened Jan. 20.

When asked about the delay, Maj. Jordan Cochran, a spokesman for the Marine Corps, told that the Corps "had to work with [the secretary of defense and the Navy] to develop the governing policies prior to publishing service-level guidance."

The policy stresses that "commanders will make every effort to approve requests and may authorize parental leave in one continuous period or in increments consistent with operational requirements."

The rules also point out that, while Marines would normally have to wait to finish their deployment before taking the leave, commanders can make exceptions. Deployments longer than 90 days also enable commanders to extend the one-year window in which Marines would normally have to use this benefit.

The Navy's policy also included a one-year requirement to use the leave, as well as the option to use it in one block or smaller periods.

Unlike the Navy's document, however, the Marine Corps policy does note that, for children born outside of marriage, "the non-birth parent's parentage of the child must first be established" before they are allowed to take the time off, such as being listed on a birth certificate or having a court order for child support.

Now, the only service not to implement the new parental leave policy is the Army, the Pentagon's largest branch.

-- Konstantin Toropin can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @ktoropin.

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