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Model custody law provides guidance to deployed military parents

When divorcing, it's not uncommon for a parent to relocate to a different city or even to another state. When that happens, however, disputes may arise over child custody issues, including visitation and support matters. Those discussions become even more complicated when one of the parents is deployed in military service.

A national legal panel hopes to provide guidance. The group, called the Uniform Law Commission, is comprised of 350 attorneys appointed by all the states. They are working to standardize state custody laws for military service members. At an upcoming national meeting, the panel is expected to give final approval to model legislation called the Deployed Parents Custody and Visitation Act. The model act is intended to be a reference for states, who could adopt the language for their own purposes.

Military service members with children might be able to prepare a standardized pre-deployment family care plan, which specifies care arrangements in the event of deployment. Around 40 states have also passed legislation that says deployment cannot be used as the sole factor in custody issues. Yet many child custody issues remain uncertain for military parents, especially when divorce proceedings are initiated after the parent has been deployed.

For example, when a parent is assigned to a base in another state, it may be unclear which court has jurisdiction. When a military parent is away, a court may not have enough information to decide whether a temporary custody arrangement should be made granting visitation rights to a step-parent or grandparent. A court may also not have adequate information to decide whether a temporary custody plan should be made permanent when a military parent returns home from deployment.

While no divorce is easy, custody matters involving members of the military and their dependents are often very challenging. An attorney can ensure you are granted the time you need and deserve with your child, whether through joint custody or through visitation.

Source: The Star Tribune, "Legal group drafts law to make child custody rules work better for deployed military parents," Kristin M. Hall, July 18, 2012

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