What happens if the parent with physical custody is in the military and is deployed?
For military families, divorce often comes with additional concerns that civilian families do not have to worry about. While in any divorce, child custody can be a contentious issue, it is especially complicated if a person is in the military and is deployed. While physical custody is usually outlined in the child custody agreement or is determined by a court order, it is difficult to change once the order has been put in place, even in the case of military deployment.
If the child’s parents or the legal guardian of the child do not agree to a modification, the court will often not just change the custody agreement due to deployment in the military. The parents can ask, however, for the court to do a temporary order that can change the agreement for the duration of the parent’s deployment. If this happens, the initial custody choice is usually the other parent, but custody may be granted to grandparents or other individuals if the other parent is not fit to care for the child, or if there are other reasons why someone else would be better suited to have temporary custody.
Child support and visitation agreements may also be altered during military deployment, depending on the specific family circumstances. When the deployment ends, any orders that were instituted temporarily will also usually end. That’s why it is so important for military families to consult an experienced child custody attorney before deployment so that they can make a plan for the child if the parent is sent out to duty. This will reduce confusion and will provide a more stable plan, which is always better for the child.
The court will help with decisions, and will always consider the best interests of the child first. For parents who are considering divorce, it is important to have an attorney who understands the legal process, who can counsel you on your options, and can help you reach an agreement that works for everyone involved. Custody decisions do not have to be contentious if everyone keeps a cool head and thinks about the child first, above their own needs or desires.
When it comes to divorce, military families may face unique challenges like active duty deployment. These issues need to be discussed early on in the process to make sure that the child is cared for and visitation is modified during the individual’s military service. You may also consider making a “family care plan” and filing with the Department of Defense, but keep in mind the court can override a family care plan, so it is not the exact same thing as a court order. It is best if the couple can agree on a plan of action and move forward, but that is not always possible in every case. According to the American Bar Association, the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act may also come in handy if your spouse tries to modify the child custody order while you are gone, so talk to your attorney about the unique protections that are available to you if you are the person who is in the military.