Parenting plans are often difficult to create, and even more challenging to renegotiate as circumstances change. This is especially true for parents who serve in the military. Military members are subject to deployment and can be transferred to new locations across the country or overseas with little notice. The nature of this type of work is challenging for anyone, but for divorced or separated parents it can be even more so. If you or your co-parent serves in the military, make sure you understand how a military career could impact your child custody or visitation arrangements.
Shared Custody Between A Civilian Parent and Military Parent
When only one parent serves in the military, parents can usually work around any potential deployments or relocations with extensive planning and preparation. Parents who share custody can also negotiate their everyday parenting plans based on their own work schedules, plans, and the needs of their children. If the military parent is on a difficult schedule but lives near their children, both parents may be able to organize a parenting plan to allow the military parent time with their children when they aren't working. And, because deployments and relocation orders can be sudden, the parents can work out plans for when such orders occur. For example, the civilian parent can temporarily take complete care of the children or can share custody with the military member's parents, spouse, or family member.
Civilian Parent Has Sole Custody
If the civilian parent has sole custody of the child, the military member will still be entitled to visitation, unless the court has declared otherwise. In order to allow the military member time with his or her children, the custodial parent can plan around the days the military parent is available. If the military member is deployed, Texas law allows the noncustodial military parent to designate another person to exercise visitation rights on their behalf. Or, the military parent may ask the court to grant makeup visitation time to the parent when he or she returns from deployment.
Military Parent Has Sole Custody
When a military member has sole custody of his or her children, it can be very tricky to deal with deployment and relocation orders. On a normal basis, the parent will likely have worked out an adequate daycare system with a trusted facility or relatives, as most single parents do, or he or she might rely on a new spouse to take care of them. However, if the parent with sole custody is relocated overseas or deployed, he or she can sign over temporary custody of their children to someone they trust. This can include the child's noncustodial parent, a spouse, a parent, or another trusted relative or friend. If temporary custody is not appointed, the court can choose someone they see as suitable. In cases such as these, the court will consider which decision is in the child's best interest.
Both Parents Serve in the Military
If both parents serve in the military, they can create a parenting plan that allows each person time with their children when they are not deployed. However, the amount of time or visitation granted to each parent depends on whether or not custody is shared. In the meantime, if both parents are deployed, they may appoint temporary custody to trusted family members or spouses.
It is also important to note that military parents' rights are protected while they serve overseas. According to The Service Members Civil Relief Act, all court proceedings will stop when a military member is deployed. This way, the military member can perform his or her duties without having to worry about their ex trying to change custody orders or take away the military parent's parental rights. This act can be bypassed, however, in extreme cases where the child is at risk.
If you are dealing with a custody or visitation issue and you or your ex is in the military, our firm can help. Contact the Law Office of Robert E. Luttrell III to get started.