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Deployment and child custody: Your options

When you're in the military, there may be a question as to your ability to care for your child. Clearly, if you are deployed, it won't be possible to have custody of your child. This issue, combined with other requirements of military service, is why many people in the military worry that they'll lose custody permanently.

The thing to remember is that, while your service may impact your immediate custody arrangements, your service should not be the sole determining factor in your custody arrangements. Before you deploy or relocate, you will need to create a family care plan that discusses how your children will be cared for financially, logistically and medically while you're deployed.

How should you design a parenting plan as a military member?

If you haven't yet built a custody plan, it's a wise choice to add provisions that are directly related to military deployment and relocation.

Child custody can be modified if and when necessary, but it can take time to do so. It's a better choice to work with the other parent to make arrangements before you are deployed or have to relocate.

What should you be able to show if you have to seek a custody modification?

If you have to relocate for work, you may be able to take your child. However, you will need to show that the move will benefit your child in some way before you can have the move approved and keep custody.

If there are provisions related to relocation in your custody order already, then turn to those first before seeking modifications from the court. Your life circumstances may have changed and require modifications, even if you've addressed relocation in the past.

What are your rights under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act?

While you're deployed or on active duty, there are some protections in place for your benefit. These include:

  • An automatic 90-day stay in any court proceedings when you ask for the protection in writing
  • A stay or postponement of administrative or court proceedings if you aren't able to proceed with the case due to military service
  • Additional delays beyond 90 days when approved by the hearing officer, magistrate or judge

You should never have to worry about custody arrangements being changed without you having time to respond to court dates or hearings. The act above helps protect you from courts making decisions when you can't be there to defend yourself or to assert your preferences.

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Wilson, Dabler & Associates, L.L.C.
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Belleville, IL 62220

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