Our nation’s service members protect our nation here and abroad. This may include relocating across the country regularly or even being deployed to a different country for a time period. These situations can strain any marriage, but if the service member is divorced with a child, this strain could affect the service member’s custody rights. The following is a brief overview of how a service member can protect their custody rights.
Establish a family care plan
To avoid child custody problems from the get-go, if a service member is facing deployment or relocation, they can work with their co-parent to create a family care plan. This plan will include information on who will care for the child if the service member is away on military duty. That being said, co-parenting can be challenging in the best of circumstances, and deployments or relocations can add additional stress. It is important for both parents to seek the help they need to cope with the emotional strain of deployment or relocation.
If a custody issue arises that is not included in a family care plan, it is important for service members to know their rights. First, it is important to know that state law provides the basis for determining whether the service member must seek court approval to relocate with the child. In some states, the service member must demonstrate how the relocation would benefit the child. Other states ban any relocation unless compelling circumstances exist.
Under the federal Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, service members may be able to delay court or administrative proceedings if they cannot participate in them due to their military duties. Under state law, previous, current or anticipated absences due to military duties cannot be used as the sole basis for modifying an existing child custody order. The existing custody order should come back into effect when the service member returns from their military duties unless doing so would not be in the child’s best interests.
Learn more about your rights
Service members protect our nation. It would not be right to treat them unfairly in child custody proceedings based on their deployment or relocation alone. Service members facing child custody issues following a military divorce will want to make sure they understand their rights under federal and state law so they can make decisions that are in their best interests and the best interests of their child.