Parental Rights vs. Service To Your Country: Custody Concerns For Deployed Parents

With the multitude of stories circulated in the media in recent years regarding the custody struggles faced by deployed military parents, it is no wonder that individuals serving in the armed services are desperate for change.


In 2012 the Uniform Law Commission drafted the Uniform Deployed Parents Custody and Visitation Act, which serves to facilitate a fair and speedy resolution in custody cases where one or both of parents serve in the military. One of the provisions of this act forbids the court to use a parent’s past deployment or possible future deployment as a negative factor when attempting to determine the best interests of the child during a custody proceeding.


This act was created with the intention of balancing the interests of the deployed parent, the other parent, and the best interests of the child. For example, the act states that no permanent custody or visitation orders can be determined right before, or during, a service member’s deployment without their consent, which aims to protect the rights of military parents.


The only other protection for military parents is offered by the Service members Civil Relief Act, which requires that a judge must grant a stay of any legal proceeding (including custody proceedings) when the demands of military service prevent a service member from participating in the proceedings. In essence, this means that if someone is serving in the military abroad or out of state, any and all court hearings must be postponed until they are once again available to be present for court dates.


However, this only goes so far in protecting the rights of parents serving their country in the military.


Which is why the House Bill titled the “Servicemember Family Protection Act” (HR 4201 112th Congress) was viewed as a potential game-changer for parents serving in the military. But history was not in its favor. Bills very similar to HR 4201 have been introduced on six separate occasions in the past, where they met with resounding success in the U.S. House of Representatives, but went on to flounder and die in the Senate Armed Services Committee.


Representative Joe Turner, who introduced the bill, said that it’s primary purpose was to protect military parents from losing custody of their children due to their service. In essence, the absences of military parents, which are caused by their deployments, should no longer be a factor in determining the custody of their children. But once again, it was not to be, and the bill never made it through the Senate.


As of now, the deck can seem stacked against the military moms and dads of our nation, which is a situation that many feel makes little sense. And we couldn’t agree more. After all, those who are fighting for our freedom shouldn’t be penalized for their willingness to serve. But just because the situation doesn’t seem ideal, doesn’t mean that you don’t have options.


So if you or a loved one are serving in the United States military, and are dealing with a custody battle that appears to have been affected by deployment or military service, please contact us. Our family law attorneys are well versed in dealing with laws that affect military parents. We can help you.