The Challenges of Creating Military Visitation Schedules and Custody Agreements
Being in the military adds extra challenges to child custody cases.
The first thing you should be concerned about when filing for child custody or responding to a suit for child custody is jurisdiction.
Jurisdiction is the right and power of a court to interpret and apply the law. Jurisdiction has territories. You will want to make sure your case is filed in the correct court, meaning the court that has power (jurisdiction) over your case.
The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) is federal legislation followed by all of the United States with the exception of Massachusetts (though a bill is pending as of May 2012). It has also been adopted by the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Guam.
The UCCJEA grants jurisdiction to the child’s “home state”—that is, the state where the child has lived for the six months prior to filing a custody motion. This might seem a little tricky for military families who move a lot or who have recently relocated.
If the child has not lived in a state for six consecutive months, then a court in a state that has “significant connections” to the child and at least one of the parents would have jurisdiction. If each parent is significantly connected a different state, it is up to the courts to decide which state is more significant and which state would have jurisdiction.
To have “significant connections” to a specific state, a parent will also have to show evidence of the connections. This could be done by providing school or medical records and / or by demonstrating the child’s personal relationships in that state.
Some examples of significant connections:
The child was born in Arizona and spent the first seven years of his life there before the family was transferred to Virginia. They recently relocated to California. The child is now ten years old, still has strong family connections in Arizona, and the non-military parent plans on returning there or has recently moved back.
The child was born in Texas and has a maternal grandmother there. However, the family relocated to Washington where they spent the past eight years until their recent relocation to Maryland. The child has ties to her school and community in Washington and one parent plans on returning to the Evergreen State with the child.
The child was born in Montana and has significant connections to New York and Tennessee. The family is currently living in Florida and has been for three months. The child is in school and the parents plan on remaining in Florida. The parents would like for Florida to assume jurisdiction of their case.
Each case gives specific reasons for requesting a state’s jurisdiction. You will need to present compelling evidence when requesting jurisdiction.
Once you file for custody and a state assumes jurisdiction, that state will retain jurisdiction until that state determines that the child is no longer connected to the state and / or neither the child nor the parents live there any longer.
Establishing jurisdiction is just one step in the custody process. You will need to create a military custody agreement that will meet the needs of your child. This will require you to work with the other parent to the best of your ability in order to create a parenting plan for your child.
You will also have to create a military visitation schedule. This can also get a little complicated. As a military parent, you will need to put forth the extra effort in order to have provisions available for your current situation as well as any potential scenarios, such as relocation and deployment.
Your child custody arrangements should be made with care and contemplation. A thorough custody agreement will meet all of your child’s needs while protecting the rights of both parents. You shouldn’t have to feel as though you are being penalized for serving in the military as it pertains to the custody of your child.