Being a member of the military poses special challenges when it comes to getting and retaining custody of your children. You are likely to be deployed to other parts of the country or even abroad, at least periodically and often on short notice, and you may not be able to take your children with you.
So what do you do? Who will have custody of your children when you are deployed far away from home? That’s a good question. The answer can get quite complicated and it depends on a variety of factors, including in which state you live.
However, the military is very much aware of that problem and has put a range of provisions in place that will help you with sorting out many of the resulting custody complications.
How Is Custody Handled When a Parent Is Deployed?
Generally, the original custody order is not affected by the parent’s deployment. However, provisions will have to be made for the parent’s absence. When this becomes necessary, a judge can change the custody or visitation order temporarily.
During the parent’s deployment, reasonable modifications of the normal visitation schedule will be arranged if possible and if it is in the child’s best interest. This will also depend on how far away from the children’s regular place of residence the parent will be stationed. If it is far away, alternative arrangements will need to be made.
For example, the military parent can designate an alternative party, such as a grandparent, to take care of the child during the parent’s absence.
That temporary order normally ends when the parent returns, and the original custody order terms will resume at that time, unless there is a good reason why it would not be safe to go back to the original arrangements.
Concerns About Infectious Diseases
What happens if you are deployed overseas or in an area where there is a possibility of catching an infectious disease? Can the other parent or the caretaker keep you away from your children in order to protect them upon your return?
They are not legally allowed to hide your children or prevent access to them unilaterally. If you find yourself in such a situation, you should get the help of an experienced family law attorney to resolve the issue and protect your children.
How Military Service Can Affect Custody in a Divorce?
When a member of the military is getting a divorce, it might be more challenging for them to get custody of their children. The fact that they may have to relocate repeatedly, for various lengths of time, will put them at a disadvantage, especially considering that normally the parents will be required to remain within a specific geographic area.
The judge will also keep the best interest of the children in mind, which will include a stable and predictable home life. This will be much more difficult for the military parent to accomplish, although it is by no means impossible. Still, most of the regular tasks of child rearing assume that the children remain in one place, from schooling to doctor’s visits and continuity in the children’s friendships.
It does not help that the laws with regard to custody and the military vary from state to state. This makes it all the more challenging to remain on top of the situation.
A Family Care Plan
In light of these challenges, it is crucial for the parents to develop a family care plan that maps out how to provide for the children and take care of them with regard to finances, schooling, medical care and more. It also provides for what will happen during deployment.
There are a variety of possible arrangements, including allowing the child to travel and arranging for a family member to care for the child. Either way, it will be smart to retain an experienced child custody attorney who has a history of having helped members of the military.
This is especially important because traditionally, courts move slowly, while members of the military often don’t get much notice when they are required to move to a new location. This requirement to relocate repeatedly could put the parent at risk of losing custody to their children’s other parent. This could especially become a major issue if the divorce is acrimonious and the non-military parent is trying to get as much from the divorce as possible.
Laws That Protect Members of the Military
There are some laws in place that protect members of the military from automatic judgments against them when it comes to custody cases although they vary from state to state. However, a bill to update child custody laws for deployed military parents recently passed the House.
This means that the situation is likely to improve. Yet it is vital to have a knowledgeable lawyer at your side who can inform the judge about the military and why custody of the military member would be beneficial for the children.
So how do you find such a lawyer? Start by doing research to find a child custody attorney who has experience with supporting members of the military. We have that kind of experience. Call or email us to request a free case evaluation. We will be happy to help you.