Military Custody Agreements While Deployed
You can write up your own custody agreement (on your own or with the other parent) or you can work with an attorney or legal professional and have them create it. If you don't want to pay the high cost of an attorney, and want to easily make your own agreement, you can use the Custody X Change software.
Custody X Change is software that creates parenting plans. You make each part of your agreement, and then you can print professional documents of your plan.
Any parents involved in a custody battle will discover that making the custody arrangements for their children can be a long and technical process. The process becomes even more complicated when one of the parents is in the military.
If you are in the military, your custody agreement should contain various provisions designed to protect you and your child from various situations that may arise due to the nature of your military service.
The last thing you need is to be penalized for serving your country. Knowing what to include in your custody agreement will help you protect your rights and the rights of your child.
Yes. The Service Member's Relief Act is a federal law that protects military personnel from having to defend themselves in civil suits while they are deployed. It protects them from being sued when they are not able to be present to defend themselves.
Your ex will not be able to legally petition the court for a permanent change in custody or proceed with a pending divorce or custody situation while you are deployed. You will, however, need to invoke the law in order to make sure you are completely safe from this sort of activity.
Many states have specific laws that protect the custody rights military personnel in the event they are deployed. You should check the laws regarding custody and military families in the state that has jurisdiction over your child's custody in order to be aware of your rights.
You should never rely completely on the law to protect you in custody disputes.
Family courts consider the best interests of the child when making decisions in custody cases. Suppose your ex files for a different type of custody while you are abroad. The judge may stay the case until you return.
However, upon your return, the judge may decide that you were gone for a significant amount of time and that your child is better off remaining in the constant care of the “primary caregiver”.
Your custody agreement should include detailed information and address all of the possibilities you may face as a member of the military. You should think, plan, and protect yourself and your child.
There are many things you should consider including in your agreement in addition to the basic requirements:
A flexible visitation schedule
Being in the military is not always a simple 9-5 work schedule. In fact, your schedule may change every few months. You will want to include verbiage in your agreement that will allow you to see your child for a specific amount of time each week or month. It should be contingent upon your availability. Your child should not have to miss out on spending time with you because your work schedule varies.
Provisions for leave and vacations
Military personnel receive a generous amount of time of each year. If you want to use this time to spend more time with your child, you should include provisions in your agreement that will allow your child to do so.
Provisions for surrogate visitation during deployment
You may want to consider including a stipulation that designates that another person shall be able to excise your visitation rights while you are deployed.
If you both agree, you can select a person to act as a substitute for you while you are away. Your mother, sister, or wife (or any mutually agreed upon person) would be able to spend time with your child while you are deployed and follow the same schedule that you do.
This is a great way to ensure your child stays in the custody routine and is able to spend time with your loved ones.
Methods of communication during deployment
Technology enables you to see and talk to your child from halfway around the world. You can include provisions in your agreement that allows you to talk to your child and / or video chat with your child on a frequent, ongoing basis. You don't have to lose touch with your child just because you are deployed.
You can create a set of guidelines for this type of communication in your agreement so you will always be able to “see” your child. You may have to pay for the equipment and internet service as a condition of this arrangement, but it will be a very good investment.
Provisions for your return
When you get back from your deployment, you should be able to resume the same schedule that was in effect when you left. You may even want to include stipulations for additional visitation time with your child when you return from your deployment.
Provisions for an out of area transfer
You will want to address how a possible relocation will affect your custody agreement. If you are transferred out of your child's home state, you will need to renegotiate your agreement to accommodate the distance. You should include a thoroughly detailed plan that encompasses a long-distance visitation schedule.
Your service is valuable to your country. You should never have to feel as though you are being punished for being in the military because your custody situation is affected by it.
Planning ahead will help you retain your custody rights in the future.