Guidelines Proposed for Military Parents Embroiled in Child Custody Cases

Anyone who has worked through an Indiana child custody plan will tell you that there are a great deal of considerations and challenges.Those challenges can be magnified tenfold when one of the parents is actively serving in the military.

Our Indiana child custody lawyers know that when a military member is frequently on active deployments, it not only makes establishing arrangements more difficult, but it can leave the service member with few legal options when custody disputes erupt.

Now, a national legal panel that aims to make state laws more uniform is targeting child custody laws, as they relate to active military members. The Uniform Law Commission, with attorneys representing all 50 states, met recently in Tennessee to give the final rubber stamp on the Deployed Parents Custody and Visitation Act.

It’s not a law – but it could be. It’s a set of standards that states can choose to adopt in order to level the playing field for military parents and make child custody arrangements more fair. The hope is that state legislators will take action. Of course, there is always the possibility that individual states could tweak certain aspects of the proposal.

The problem, the commission says, is that child custody laws aren’t consistent from state to state when it comes to military members.

Some of examples of problems that family courts have had to contend with include determination of jurisdiction when a military member is based in another state, whether grandparents or stepparents are allowed visitation rights if the military member is on active deployment and whether the temporary visitation and custody arrangements that are in place when the military member is on leave should be made permanent once he or she is home for good.

One case that’s been cited as illustrating how troublesome these problems can be is a Navy officer whose wife was pregnant when he was deployed five years ago. The pair lived in Virginia at the time, but then during his deployment, she left him and moved to another state and reportedly refused to allow him to see his infant daughter. When he filed for custody in his home state, the judge told him he did not have jurisdiction because the officer had been given military orders to leave Virginia.

Unfortunately, a problem in a lot of state courts is a lack of understanding regarding the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, which was passed in 2003 and suspends certain civil actions for soldiers who are deployed on active duty. While it doesn’t expressly include protections in child custody cases, there has been talk of adding that aspect to the law. A U.S. Representative from Ohio has tried for the last seven years to pass a federal measure that would bar courts from using active deployments against service members in family court.

Part of the legal guidelines drafted by the commission include the stipulation that a parent’s absence from a state due to deployment should not mean that their home state doesn’t have jurisdiction over the custody issue.

Indiana Family Law Attorney Burton A. Padove handles divorce and child custody matters throughout northern Indiana, including Gary, Hammond and Calumet City. Call Toll Free 877-446-5294.

Additional Resources:
Legal group drafts law to make child custody rules work better for deployed military parents, By Kristin M. Hall, Associated Press

More Blog Entries:
Military Spouses Seeking Indiana Divorce Require Special Consideration , July 15, 2012, Indiana Divorce Lawyer Blog

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