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Child custody is complicated for those in the military

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Child custody disputes are never easy, but parents who are in the military face special challenges. Because military personnel move frequently, child custody issues may involve the laws of multiple states.

When children are moved to another state, that state assumes jurisdiction over child custody matters unless a court order was issued before the move. This may pose obstacles where military personnel are stationed in another state but must file in the state where the children reside. States also have different waiting periods for divorce and a military spouse may have to pay out of a basic housing allowance until the divorce is final.

Military service and deployments may obstruct a spouse's rights to custody or visitation, although judges should not consider this service. Other arguments are also based upon deployments, field exercises, permanent change of station and long hours.

Constant moving should not constitute grounds against custody. Service personnel are usually deployed at the same base for two years, if not longer. They can also request stabilization which keeps military personnel assigned to a duty station for a specific time.

Long and unusual work schedules are also used against military personnel in custody disputes. However, military-owned or private child care centers approved and inspected by the military are located on most military bases. These are operated to reflect unusual work schedules and adhere to high military standards. Many centers have third shift, overnight care and drop-in care.

Visitation is also difficult to enforce, costly to keep and sometimes missed due to work requirements. Also, former spouses may be separated by hundreds and thousands of miles. For example, an ex-spouse in California may not place the children on a plane to visit their parent in Texas for a summer vacation despite a scheduled summer vacation.

To enforce visitation orders, a spouse must file a motion asking the presiding judge to order the spouse to send the children. However, this takes up time and money. A civil lawsuit for restitution can only make up for the time lost with the children and the aggravation.

An attorney can assist spouses with seeking and enforcing child custody orders that are fair and reasonable. Lawyers can also help assure that these orders are enforced.

Source: Woman'sdivorce.com, "Military child custody and visitation issues," Accessed July 6, 2017

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