Courts often struggle to create fair child custody arrangements during divorce, and military personnel can face unique challenges. Service members may worry about how a deployment will affect their right to supervise their children.
However, military parents have options and do not simply have to sacrifice custody or visitation rights to the other parent when on duty away from home.
Who gets custody during a custodial parent’s deployment?
While courts may prefer to award custody to the noncustodial parent, the custodial parent can petition the court to designate another person as the temporary guardian. If staying with the noncustodial parent is not preferable, the court may agree to the custodial parent’s request. Sometimes, the court may choose another person entirely if it believes neither option serves the child’s interest.
The judge issues a temporary order for the child to stay with the appropriate party. Upon return from deployment, the temporary custody order expires. The families then return to the original custody arrangement.
How does visitation work during a noncustodial parent’s deployment?
A noncustodial military parent who gets deployed does not have to sacrifice all visitation rights to the custodial parent. The court allows the deployed parent to assign visitation to another person, such as a grandparent, stepparent or another relative.
As with other decisions about custody and visitation, the court ensures that the arrangement is in the child’s interests. At the end of a deployment, the noncustodial parent can petition for additional visitation to compensate for the time away.
Deployment does not mean a parent must sacrifice quality time and supervision with a child altogether. Military parents can search for ways to exercise their rights and keep the bonds with their children strong.