Uniform Deployed Parents Custody and Visitation Act (UDPCVA) Title 37, Chapter 7.
If you are a service member and are co parenting your child, you need to know what your rights are if and when you are deployed. Do not let the other parent make decisions without you or make you feel like an absent parent because you have to leave to serve your country.
The first thing to be aware of is that you are required to notify the other parent of deployment within seven (7) days after you receive notice of deployment. The only exception to this is if you are reasonably prevented from doing so.
For the time that you are deployed, you will need to have a plan in place for your child. If you and the other parent are able to agree to something while you are deployed, then you may enter into a temporary agreement – a temporary parenting plan. You should know that leaving your child with the other parent is NOT your only option. You may agree to grant a nonparent custodial responsibility to take the place of you while you’re gone. The nonparent may take all or partial responsibility. For example, if you typically have your child every other week, then you may give your weeks to a grandparent of the child during deployment. This agreement must be signed by both parents and the nonparent involved and filed with the appropriate court.
Another option is that you can give power of attorney over your child to a nonparent while deployed and revoke said power upon your return.
In the event you cannot come to an agreement, then you need to petition the court to have a hearing so that a judge can decide. The court shall expedite this hearing so that it is heard before deployment. The judge will hear your case and decide what is in the best interest of your child. This may result in the judge granting caretaking authority to a nonparent who is an adult family member of the child. This person’s time is limited to the time that the deployed parent is currently granted or habitually exercised – not anymore but could possibly be less. The court may also grant certain decision-making authority to this person including decisions regarding religious upbringing, health care, extracurriculars, and travel.
Outside of a hearing just for the time of deployment, there are also guidelines for a custody proceeding in general when one parent is a service member. For example, a court may not consider a parent's past deployment or possible future deployment in and of itself in determining the best interest of the child but may consider any significant impact on the best interest of the child due to the parent's past or possible future deployment. What this means is that the potential for being deployed does not automatically hurt your likelihood of getting time with your child; however, it may negatively affect some of the best interest factors that the court looks at when
deciding parenting time arrangements.
As a side note, the Service Members Civil Relief Act is also relevant to these proceedings, and you should be familiar with the safeguards it lends to service members as well.
There are several other things to be aware of as a service member fighting for parenting time and it is always best to have an attorney knowledgeable in this area of law.
Give us a call at (615) 651-7386 for a free consultation today!