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How Does Child Custody Work in a Military Divorce?

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By Lonnie Nelson
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How does child custody work in a military divorce

In a military divorce, there are many different issues that you and your co-parent must address. These can include child custody, visitation rights and support.

Custody is the legal right to make decisions about your children, including their residency, education and health care. The judge will determine custody based on what’s best for your children.

Joint Physical Custody

The military is an important branch of the federal government, and many enlisted men and officers have families. This makes divorce and custody issues a natural part of life for these members.

Custody decisions are often made based on what is in the best interests of the children. In a military family, this can be especially difficult to determine, as deployments and duty schedules may put one or both parents at risk of being away from their children at the same time.

Joint physical custody – also called shared custody – allows children to spend a significant amount of time with both parents. This has been shown to have a positive impact on children’s development after a divorce.

To make this arrangement work, communication between parents is crucial to navigating logistical details that can prevent confusion and misunderstandings for children. This can include such things as homework that has to be turned in, and transitioning from one home to the other during the school week.

Sole Physical Custody

When parents divorce, one parent is typically awarded sole custody of the children. This can be physical custody or legal custody. In a sole physical custody situation, the child lives with the custodial parent for all or a majority of the time.

This gives that parent the right to make major decisions for the child and the responsibility for their care, such as medical care, schooling, and religious faith. However, the noncustodial parent may have visitation rights if the court decides that this would be in the child’s best interests.

In a military divorce, this type of custody is often sought by the non-military parent and can be difficult to negotiate with the service member. It is critical to have a strong, compassionate military divorce attorney who will help you navigate through this challenging situation.

Visitation Rights

When military parents divorce, their child custody and visitation rights will be outlined in a document called a “parenting plan.” This parenting plan will be incorporated into a court order.

Often, these plans will specify how the children are to be cared for if one or both of their parents are deployed. A family law attorney with experience in a military divorce can help develop an effective and reasonable visitation plan.

The Uniform Deployed Parents Custody and Visitation Act (UDPCVA) allows courts to consider a parent’s future deployments when determining child custody. However, the deployment cannot be used as a sole basis for custody, unless there is a significant impact on the child’s best interests.

In the event of a deployment, a service member can obtain an automatic stay of court proceedings for 90 days. They may also receive additional stays at the judge’s discretion.

Military Service

Whether you’re a service member, or your spouse is, there are special laws in place to address issues involving military divorce. It’s a way to protect service members from being harmed in family court, so that they can focus on their missions.

A good example of this is the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA). This law allows for filing extensions and prevents courts from making final rulings on legal matters affecting service members while they’re abroad, or while they’re away from home for any significant period of time.

One important aspect of military child custody is that parents must work together to create a family care plan. This is a document that outlines who will care for their children financially, medically and logistically while the service member is deployed or otherwise not available.

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