Having and raising a family while being an active member of the military is no easy task. Being away from one’s children and spouse during the long periods of deployment is hard because this parent misses out on a lot of childhood milestones and daily life experiences. Deployment is known to put strains on marriages, and unfortunately, leads to divorce in many situations. Navigating child custody issues post-divorce is unavoidably complicated if disputes arise when the military parent is unable to directly deal with situation due to official duties. The restricted availability of military personnel for months and years at a time makes it easier for the non-military parent to deny or restrict access to the child, and has led to parental kidnapping in some cases. A recent decision by a federal district court in Florida that ordered a serviceman to return his son to his mother in Japan highlights the struggle of many military personnel with children born to foreign parents. Florida law recognizes that parents in the military have the same amount of desire to be involved their children’s lives, but need more flexibility in the exercise of time-sharing plans. An overview of the special considerations active military may need to address on child custody following divorce will follow below.
Changes to the Time-Sharing Schedule
A vulnerability all military parents on deployment face is the possibility that the other parent will seek to change the child custody order in his/her favor. Florida law has provisions that specifically address petitions seeking modification of parental responsibility and/or time-sharing while a parent is on active duty. The goal is to prevent the non-military parent from taking advantage of a deployment, and to that end, a court is not permitted to issue or modify a child custody order while a parent is on active duty that greatly impacts his/her ability to exercise his/her parenting time. The order in place at the time of deployment or assignment must remain in effect until the military order expires. However, a court may enter a temporary decision on time-sharing or parental responsibility if the best interests of the child justify it. The grounds for the temporary modification cannot rest solely on the disruption the deployment has on the child’s life. These temporary modifications automatically expire upon the parent’s return from active duty.
In addition, for parents deployed or assigned for more than 90 days, and consequently unable to exercise their parenting time, they can designate someone else to exercise parenting time. The designee must be a family member, stepparent or a relative of the child by marriage. The other parent can only object to the designation on the grounds that it is not in the best interests of the child.
If a deployed or assigned military parent wants to take the designation of parenting time a step further, he/she can consent to concurrent custody with an immediate family member. This arrangement gives the family member the ability to make decisions related to the child in the parent’s absence. This option allows the deployed or assigned parent to have someone near and available to the child to represent the parent’s interests in important matters.
Get Legal Advice
If you or your spouse is in the military and seeking divorce, you need a divorce attorney experienced with the issues unique to this situation. Laws specific to the divorce of military personnel must be satisfied to ensure the terms of the divorce decree are valid and enforceable. The attorneys at the Tampa Bay law firm All Family Law Group, P.A. understand the rules that apply in military divorces, and will strive to give the best possible representation. Contact the Tampa divorce attorneys and family lawyers at All Family Law Group, P.A. in Tampa Bay at 813-816-2232 for a consultation at no charge or email us.
by Lynette Silon-Laguna Google+