Protecting Custody Rights During Deployment

A recent federal legislative proposal would limit the detrimental effect deployment currently has on military personnel's ability to obtain and maintain custody of their children during their absence.

The bill would add language protecting custody rights of military personnel under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. The proposal would limit a judge's ability to weigh military deployment as a negative factor in the determination of what type of custody arrangement is in the best interest of the child. Under current law, a judge can consider military deployment and the possible detrimental effect the absence may have on the child when determining the proper custody arrangement. In some cases, the threat of deployment can be used to limit the type of custody a military parent is awarded.

Included in the proposal is a provision that allows military personnel to transfer custody to another person while they are deployed. This temporary change in custody would be limited to the duration of deployment, and the prior custody order would be reinstated upon the servicemember's return. To benefit from the proposed bill, military personnel would have to be subject to a deployment of between 60 days and 18 months, and families must not be able to accompany the soldier during the absence.

Issues surrounding dissolution and custody are often difficult and emotionally charged. Families facing divorce have to plan for a future in which there is little certainty. Concerns over future deployments and the effect of these deployments on their ability to maintain custody of their children are often at the forefront of the minds of military personnel who are already faced with the difficult realization that they have to leave their families for an extended period of time.

Allowing custody arrangements to be based on the best interest of the child without viewing deployment as a negative impact on a parent's ability to raise his or her child can be a step in the right direction to ease the minds of military personnel during a difficult time. Already faced with the stress of having to leave their families, this proposed bill could help these individuals obtain and maintain custody of their children before, during and after deployment.

If you are a member of the military and facing divorce, contact a divorce lawyer knowledgeable about legal issues facing members of the military.