When Duty Calls for Divorce: Strategies for Successful Military Custody Agreements

March 19, 2024

What Should Military Service Members Know When Navigating the Child Custody Process?

Handling the aftermath of a divorce involving children can be complicated and emotional under the best of circumstances. For military parents, the complexity of creating a successful custody agreement can be considerably increased by the uncertainty of their future living arrangements and assignments. Keeping the lines of communication as open as possible with your former spouse and drafting comprehensive custody plans can both be key to remaining a guiding figure in your child’s life, no matter where your military service takes you. A Tennessee military divorce lawyer can help you create a solid custody agreement that addresses the specific requirements of your situation.

What Are Some Key Features of a Robust Military Custody Agreement?

The challenges of co-parenting as a military service member can be significant. In addition to the negotiating standard aspects of a parenting plan, such as defining parenting time schedules and decision-making responsibilities, military parents must take extra steps to ensure their plan covers all possible eventualities. By including the following features in your military custody agreement, you can make certain your child has structure, stability, and a solid connection with both parents.

Flexible Visitation Schedules

Given the unpredictable nature of military duties, custody agreements should include flexible visitation schedules, if possible. This flexibility ensures that the military parent can maintain a meaningful relationship with their child despite irregular hours or sudden deployments.

Family Care Plan

For military parents, creating a comprehensive family care plan is crucial. This plan outlines who will care for the child in the service member’s absence, covering financial, medical, and logistical aspects. It’s a proactive measure that complements court-ordered parenting plans and is often required by military regulations.

Provisions for Deployment and Relocation

Custody agreements should explicitly address potential deployments and relocations, including how custody and visitation will be managed during these periods. Your plan might involve designating temporary custody to the non-military parent or arranging for virtual visitation. Additionally, your plan should address what happens to the custody arrangement upon your return. Most states protect the deployed parent’s right to resume the custody arrangement that was in place when they left unless it would be detrimental to the child’s best interests to do so.

Negotiating these provisions may be challenging, and it can be vital to enlist the assistance of a lawyer or mediator with experience in drafting parenting plans for members of the military. Your lawyer can draw upon their legal knowledge to craft a tailor-made plan that fits your unique situation and centers your child’s best interests.

Surrogate Visitation Rights

In 2014, Tennessee repealed the state legislation allowing military parents to delegate their visitation rights to a family member during deployment. This step was taken in favor of enacting new legislation to make state law consistent with the Uniform Deployed Parent Custody and Visitation Act (UDPCVA).

However, some other states do allow visitation rights to be assigned to grandparents or other biological relatives if a service member will be deployed for a specified length of time. This provision helps maintain the child’s connection to the military parent’s side of the family. You should discuss this topic with your lawyer to understand the legal options available to you in your jurisdiction.

What Protections Exist for Military Parents?

Your status as a member of the military should not be used against you in child custody proceedings.

Several state and federal laws exist to safeguard the rights of military parents and ensure they can have strong relationships with their children despite the challenges posed by deployments and other challenges of military duty. The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) and the Uniform Deployed Parent Custody and Visitation Act (UDPCVA) are two of the most comprehensive acts created to address these issues.

Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA)

The SCRA provides protections for military personnel in civil matters, including child custody disputes.

Among other measures, it allows for the postponement of court proceedings if military duties prevent the service member’s attendance. This protection ensures that military service does not unfairly disadvantage service members in custody cases.

Uniform Deployed Parent Custody and Visitation Act (UDPCVA)

The UDPCVA is a significant legal framework designed to address the complexities of custody and visitation arrangements involving military parents who are deployed. This act serves as a model for state legislation, providing standard procedures and protections for military parents facing deployment-related custody challenges. The act is structured into five articles covering definitions, procedures for custody and visitation during deployment, court jurisdiction issues, and effective date provisions. It aims to streamline the process of addressing custody matters in the context of military service. Tennessee is one of several states that has adopted the terms of the UDPCVA into its statutes.

How Can Planning Ahead With the Help of a Knowledgeable Attorney Make the Custody Process Less Stressful for You and Your Child?

Divorce causes upheaval in the lives of everyone involved. Children are particularly susceptible to the adverse effects of the stressors related to a divorce, such as switching schools, changing living arrangements, or being subject to shifting parenting schedules. Unfortunately, the realities of military life can add even more uncertainty to the mix and make custody arrangements even more challenging.

Engaging in careful planning is crucial to anticipate all the challenges you and your child could face now and in the future. A child custody lawyer from Brighter Day Law with experience in military divorce can assist in creating a custody plan that accounts for the unique situations that servicemembers may encounter. Prioritizing stability for your child and protecting your relationship with them, no matter what occurs with your assignments and deployments, can give you both peace of mind and set them up for a brighter future. To schedule a case evaluation, complete our online form or call 615-437-8808 today.

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