There is no question that a parent's military service can present
child custody and visitation issues. Deployments and ongoing relocations can have an
impact on child custody and visitation and sometimes they may require
that a service member give up child custody temporarily. When service
members return to the states, they sometimes face an uphill child custody battle.
If you are a parent who is
divorced or not in a relationship with your child's other parent, your relocation
or permanent change of station may have an impact on your child custody
or visitation arrangement. Child custody arrangements are generally handled
on the state level and are not subject to federal law.
If you have a child custody arrangement in place and it does not currently
contain a provision addressing military relocation, the good news is that
you can work with your attorney, the court and the other parent to modify
the arrangement to it is more appropriate to fit your personal circumstances.
Under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), you have certain rights
that are protected when you are called to active duty. The SCRA applies
to members of the Army, Air Force, Marine Corps, Navy, and National Guard,
and members of the Reserve and Coast Guard who are called to active duty.
Under the SCRA, you can obtain a postponement of court or administrative
proceedings if your military service affects your ability to proceed in
a case. The SCRA provides military members an automatic stay of ninety
days in these proceedings when you make a request in writing. This means
that if your ex tries to change your child custody status while you're
deployed, you can invoke your rights under the SCRA and postpone the hearing.
Section 61.13002 of the Florida Statutes
Not only are service members protected under the SCRA, under §61.13002
of the Florida Statutes, if a motion for modification of time-sharing
or parental responsibility is filed because a parent is activated, deployed,
or temporarily assigned for military service and the parent's ability
to comply with the standing time-sharing agreement is materially affected,
the court cannot issue an order to modify or amend a previous judgment
that changes the time-sharing arrangement as it existed on the date the
parent was activated, deployed or temporarily assigned for military service.
Under §61.13002 (2), if a parent is activated or deployed for military
service on orders in excess of 90 days and the parent cannot comply with
the time-sharing agreement, then he or she may designate a person or persons
to exercise time-sharing with the child on the parent's behalf. However,
this designation shall be limited to a family member, a stepparent, or
a relative of the child by marriage.
At present forty-two states have enacted laws that address the difficulties
that military families experience, especially when they have to temporarily
give up custody or forgo visitation when separated from their children
for a long time while on temporary duty or deployment. Fortunately, with
nine military bases in Florida including Eglin Air Force Base, MacDill
Air Force Base, NS Mayport, Tyndall and others, the state has enacted
legislation to help protect the parental rights of Florida's service members.
For more information about deployment and time-sharing arrangements, contact a
Daytona Beach family law attorney from Buckmaster & Ellzey at (888) 785-6548.