When you are a U.S. service member, you don’t always know well ahead of time about an upcoming deployment. You could receive orders to deploy and have only a couple weeks, if that, to prepare. When you are sharing custody of a child, the possibility of a long-term deployment can be worrisome. How will that affect your child custody agreement? Can your former spouse seek to permanently change custody time while you are overseas?
Custody rights for service members
For years, U.S. service members faced problems with child custody while deployed and after they returned home. If a parent serving in the military had to deploy rather quickly, often he or she didn’t have time to transfer physical custody of their child to the child’s other parent or go through the official process of notifying the court of their move. As a result, the service members often lost custody of their children, solely because of their commitment to their country.
The Oklahoma Deployed Parents Custody and Visitation Act (ODPCVA) changed that. Now, active service members facing deployment have these protections for child custody:
- The court will reinstate the child custody agreement in place before the service member’s deployment after he or she returns home.
- Someone with a close relationship with the child – a stepparent or grandparent – can step in and receive the child custody time for the deployed service member.
For example, a father’s parents could receive his custody time with his child while he is deployed overseas. Of if a mother is remarried, her spouse, the child’s stepparent, can gain her custody time during her deployment.
Working with an attorney
If you are a military service member facing deployment, you may want to consult an experienced family law attorney about your child custody agreement. An attorney can help you if your former spouse seeks to change child custody during your deployment, or if he or she decides this is the time to move out of state, hampering your custody agreement for the future.
You want a strong advocate who can help you show how you are committed to acting in the best interests of your child, during your deployment and after it.