The Marine Corps on Monday finally put into place a congressionally mandated policy that gives new parents 12 weeks of leave whether or not they gave birth.

The Corps’ previous policy had given six weeks of parental leave to birth mothers and three weeks to secondary caregivers, according to Maj. Jordan Cochran, a spokesman for the Corps’ Manpower and Reserve Affairs. Birth mothers also could take six weeks of convalescent leave to recover from birth.

But the new policy laid out in a Marine administrative message gives 12 weeks to all Marine parents who welcomed a child to their family after Dec. 26, 2022.

On top of the 12 weeks of parental leave, birth mothers may also receive convalescent leave, with a doctor’s authorization, according to the Marine message.

“The amount of convalescent leave will be determined on an individual basis,” Cochran told Marine Corps Times.

Marines who adopt children or become long-term foster parents are also entitled to the 12 weeks of parental leave, according to the message.

The parental leave can be taken in conjunction with annual leave.

Marines have to use up the 12 weeks of parental leave within a year of becoming parents to the child, although that deadline can be extended in extenuating circumstances, such as if Marines are on deployments or are enrolled in full-time professional military education. They are allowed to take the leave in multiple increments as short as a week if their commanders approve it.

“In instances where the commander has carefully evaluated the operational requirements of the unit, and incremental periods of leave for the Marine are not feasible or have an immediate detriment to the unit’s mission accomplishment over the 1-year period, commanders shall approve the Marine to execute the total authorized leave in one continuous increment,” the MARADMIN states.

The secondary caregiver, if unmarried, has to demonstrate parentage of the child, for instance by providing a birth certificate.

Congress mandated the expanded leave for service members in its 2022 National Defense Authorization Act, signed in December 2021. The Pentagon just issued a memo laying out the guidance on Jan. 4, ordering the services to implement it.

“It is important for the development of military families that members be able to care for their newborn, adopted, or placed child or children,” Gil Cisneros, the Pentagon’s head of personnel and readiness, wrote in the memo.

By Jan. 12, however, only the Air Force and Space Force actually had implemented the new leave policy, leaving new parents from other services in limbo, Military Times reported.

The Navy put its policy into place on Jan. 19.

With Monday’s Marine administrative message, the Army is the only branch that has yet to implement the new policy.

The Marine commandant, Gen. David Berger, has long made expanding parental leave a priority. In his planning guidance from 2019, he wrote, “We should never ask our Marines to choose between being the best parent possible and the best Marine possible. These outcomes should never be in competition to the extent that success with one will come at the expense of the other.”

In 2020, Berger said that he even wanted the service to consider offering one year of maternity leave, but current federal law caps it at 12 weeks, Marine Corps Times previously reported.

Irene Loewenson is a staff reporter for Marine Corps Times. She joined Military Times as an editorial fellow in August 2022. She is a graduate of Williams College, where she was the editor-in-chief of the student newspaper.

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