When a service member is deployed to a war zone or other overseas assignment, it can be place a strain on even the happiest couples, with the other spouse left to care for the children alone. However, when divorced or single parents are deployed, they may find their future custody and visitation rights to their children at risk.
The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act
The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) mandates that judges place a 90-day stay on legal proceedings starting from the deployment date, including those involving custody issues. However, many deployments last for far longer than that. Judges need to consider what's in the best interests of the children and follow state laws. Even if the non-deployed parent is given custody on a temporary basis, a judge may decide that it's best for the child to remain with the parent with whom he or she has been living after the service member returns home.
The Uniform Deployed Parents Custody and Visitation Act
Since service members often call one state home, but are stationed in another state, the variance in state laws can cause even more confusion. In order to bring some uniformity to custody issues for military parents, the Uniform Deployed Parents Custody and Visitation Act (UDPCVA) was enacted in 2012. The goal of the UDPCVA is to balance service members' rights with the welfare of their children. It also seeks to facilitate disposition of these cases.
Among other things, the UDPCVA mandates that a person's past or potential future deployments can't be used to deny him or her child custody or visitation rights. It also stipulates that permanent custody orders can't be granted without the consent of a service member either before or during that person's deployment.
Know the Law and Your Rights
The last thing that service members should have to worry about while they're serving our country overseas is losing custody or visitation rights to their children. If you are dealing with these issues, it's important to seek legal guidance from an attorney who is experienced in military family law and who knows the laws of the state where your case will be heard.
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