Military Service and Child Custody
The U.S. owes a lot to its servicemen and women. Many of these service members and their families sacrifice a lot in the name of their country. To honor and protect these members, U.S. Federal law has developed in numerous ways that aim to grant special protections to service members. One way that active duty servicemembers see these protections being put to work for them is in the divorce and child custody arena. Servicemembers and their families should know that special law has been developed that could very well affect the timelines of any eventual divorce or custody hearing.
Will My Active-Duty Service Affect My Right to Custody?
There are just certain limitations to how much time an active duty military member can spend caring for the day to day needs of their child. This comes to no surprise to any servicemember or military family that has had to live through an overseas active-duty deployment. This obligation to be apart should not, however, be seen or treated similarly to a parent who is not present in their child’s life by a matter of simple choice.
The courts recognize that parents who must be absent for long periods of time in the name of military service should receive some protection to their custody rights. Accordingly, the Uniform Deployed Parents Custody and Visitation Act (UDPCVA) was developed and adopted into law at the Federal level. This means that the act applies not only in Tennessee, but in any U.S. state. Indeed, the act has far reach, and can apply to servicemembers and their families at the state, interstate, and even international arena.
The Uniform Law Commission has stated that the act serves as a set of standards and procedures to be observed to aid the resolution of custody and visitation issues that can so often affect military personnel and their families. So, no matter your deployment status, military personnel can rest assured that certain protections may be called into play to help the servicemember protect and maintain a parent/child relationship.
How the Law Might Affect Cases
The UDPCVA is just one law, of many, that have been developed to aid and protect military servicemembers. To understand all of the laws that might apply to and affect your case, you should seek the professional aid and guidance of an experienced family law attorney.
The application and effect of various laws to your case will vary, greatly, depending on the circumstances your case presents. For example, there is another federal-level law, the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) that can suspend a military personnel’s civil obligations that they would normally be under. How this law can affect a divorce and custody hearing varies, but can include mandatory “stays” (pauses) on a divorce or custody hearing. What a “stay” acts to do, in essence, is stop a judge from being able to rule on a given matter until a certain period of time has passed. This stay is meant to serve the military personnel and enable them to become aware of the legal proceedings, and take any required legal steps to protect their rights.
These protections do not prevent a divorce or custody case from ultimately moving forward. However, if a mandatory stay is applied to your case then the timeline of when a divorce and custody issue may be settled could be elongated. Military families should be aware that if a divorce or custody action becomes necessary, their road to resolution could be longer than that of a family that does not contend with these stays.
Best Interest of the Child Trumps
Parents should also be aware, and take heart from the fact, that the best interest of a child will trump all. Even if a case is stayed under the SCRA, the court can still find that it is in the best interest of the child to award a temporary custody order to the parent who is best able to care for them. At the end of the day, ensuring that a child’s needs are met is the most important objective of all.
Contact Fort, Hollway & Rogers
The experienced Franklin family lawyers at Fort, Holloway & Rogers are ready to help you navigate through any complication or special circumstances your divorce and/or child custody and visitation case may throw at you. Contact our office today to discuss your case.