Members of our military sacrifice not only their lives, but the relationships they have with their children back home. When one of these service members is a single parent, the process of enlisting and deployment becomes much harder. All too often, these parents respond to their orders and are then hit with a custody battle. It can be nearly impossible to respond to court hearings while on deployment. Service members often feel cheated when they find themselves in this situation. If they are fighting to protect the country’s rights, who exactly is protecting their parenting rights here at home?
Relinquishing Custodial Rights
An unfortunate aspect of military enlistment is that service members have to relinquish the child’s custody to someone else. If the service member is deployed for more than 90 days and is unable to comply with their current time-sharing agreement, they can designate a relative to take over their half of their agreement for the time being. This designation has to be in writing and delivered to the other parent at least 10 days before the court hearing on the time-sharing modification. Once the deployed parent relinquishes these rights and their tour ends, they do not automatically regain their custody rights. The parent now has to go back to court to modify the custody agreement yet again.
Sometimes, problems occur whenever this happens:
● The child/children may want to stay with the new legal custodian.
● The custodial parent can contest the custody change.
● A joint custody arrangement can be organized if the service member is requested to complete another tour.
With these military time-sharing agreements, there are some rights the non-deploying parent has to honor for the deploying parent. The non-deploying parent must:
● Be willing and able to make arrangements for the child/children to visit and/or speak with the deployed parent during their tour.
● Make sure the child is reasonably available while the deploying parent is on leave.
● Make sure the child is available to receive calls and emails from the deployed parent.
Military and Child Custody Laws in Florida
Because Florida is covered in military bases, the state has laws that are highly supportive of all branches of the military.
The bill that concerns temporary and concurrent child custody involving a military parent states:
● The deploying parent can designate someone to take over their end of a custody agreement while they are away.
● Active duty parents can petition for expedited hearings.
● Both parents must cooperate with each other in sharing information about the child.
● If a parent objects to the petition for concurrent custody, the court has to give the petitioner the option of changing the petition to a temporary custody order.
● An order granting concurrent custody does not affect the ability of parents to obtain physical custody of the child at any time.
● An order for concurrent custody can be terminated if either or both parents disagree to it.
● Allows for modifications to be made to existing child support order. Therefore, the deployed parent may have to pay more in child support while their custody rights are relinquished.
The Service members Civil Relief Act (SCRA) protects the legal rights of service members while on deployment. For example, if an ex-spouse tries to change the status of a custody agreement while the other parent is on deployment, the SCRA postpones any court hearings until the deployed parent is able to make arrangements to handle the case.
In regards to child custody battles, the SCRA also prohibits the court from using deployment or the possibility of deployment as a lone factor in determining what the child’s “best interest” may be. Single parent service members can rest a little easier knowing that the SCRA will safeguard their rights as they are safeguarding the country.
The Family Care Plan
Coming up with a Family Care Plan is highly recommended for all service members but it is required for single parents in the military. A family care plan is a collection of documents that details who will provide care to any dependents a service member may have (children, elderly parents, etc) while on deployment. These plans can be made for the short or long term.
Legal cases are always handled differently for our members of the military. While there are laws in place that are designed to protect parental rights of the military, it’s a constant battle single parents in the service have to face. The status of your deployment is bound to affect your custody agreement in one way or another. If you are in the military and you are experiencing a child custody battle while on deployment, contact our attorneys today. Our attorneys are knowledgeable of the rights you have as a single parent service member and we are dedicated to serving those that are dedicated to serving our country.
Contact us for more information.