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Custody concerns for members of the military

It's difficult when one or both parents serve in the military. The brave men and women who serve our country often do so at the sacrifice of custody of their children while they are deployed, then return from deployment to find a complicated legal battle ahead of them.

If you are a service member and a parent who is separated or divorced from the child's other parent, you will almost certainly be required to construct a family care plan. This plan will lay out how those who are dependent on you for care (not only children, but also elderly or disabled family members) may receive what they need in your absence. It will also detail who will have custody in the case of deployment without notice, both short-term and long-term.

In the military, you are often moved from post to post, with little regard for how this may affect your custody arrangements. If you are being relocated to another station, you will have to obtain permission from a court if you want to take a child with you and you share joint custody of that child with the other parent. This can prove quite difficult, and will generally require that you demonstrate to the court that it is in the best interest of the child to remain with you as you moved from post to post. If you are still in the process of creating your custody agreement, you may want to strongly consider the guidance of an experienced attorney who can help craft the agreement with an eye toward protecting your rights and privileges as a parent.

As a service member, you may want to look into the privileges you are afforded by the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. While the act has several provisions, the most critical is generally the ability to obtain a stay of court proceedings. This can be achieved by demonstrating that your deployment affects your ability to participate in the proceedings, granting you an automatic 90-day extension when you request it in writing, and an additional 90 days at the discretion of a judge. This can be particularly helpful if your former spouse attempts to change custody arrangements while you are deployed.

Source: Military One Source, "Child Custody Considerations for Members of the Military," accessed Sep. 13, 2016

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