Archive for the ‘On the Home Front: Military Deployment and Child Custody’ Category

On the Home Front: Military Deployment and Child Custody

Thursday, June 21st, 2018

Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines! According to the Defense Manpower Data Center (under the Office of the Secretary of Defense), the United States currently has approximately 200,000 active-duty troops deployed across 170 countries. It is no secret that many of these soldiers are battling the harshest mental, emotional, and physical conditions of their lives, journeying from their homes to the world’s most dangerous warzones in order to defend our freedom for months (or possibly even years) at a time. Much less frequently discussed, though, are the infinite difficulties faced by the loved ones that they leave behind. As the daughter and granddaughter of veterans, I fully understand how military families “serve with” their soldiers during deployment. However, I can only imagine how much more arduous these absences must be for the children of single-parent households or those whose parents are deployed simultaneously. Who takes care of them, and what happens when the deployment ends?

The Uniform Deployed Parents Custody and Visitation Act (UDPCVA) was designed to resolve child custody and visitation issues that military families may face during a soldier’s deployment, temporary duty, or mobilization. The UDPCVA is divided into five articles, with the first of these defining the foundational terms for the rest. Most importantly, Article 1 states that a parent’s “residence” is not changed during deployment and that deployment cannot be considered in deciding what is in “the best interest of the child.” Article 2 discourages litigation on child custody and visitation issues by outlining procedural protections for simple agreements between parties. This act also assists the UCCJEA* in preventing the issuance of competing orders via Article 3, which covers court procedures and includes the use of electronic testimony and the expedition of hearings. In addition, this article allows for the designation of visitation rights to a nonparent where the court finds that doing so would be in the best interest of the child and Article 4 explains the termination process for these rights following deployment. Finally, Article 5 summarizes the information within each article.

Mississippi Code § 93-5-34 states that “Custody and visitation procedure upon parental temporary duty, deployment, or mobilization” follows the guideline provisions of the UDPCVA on these issues and answers my earlier hypothetical question regarding who would take care of the children similarly to Article 3. It states that “(4) If the parent with visitation rights receives military temporary duty, deployment or mobilization orders that involve moving a substantial distance from the parent’s residence or otherwise have a material effect on the parent’s ability to exercise rights, the court otherwise may delegate the parent’s visitation rights, or a portion thereof, to a family member with a close and substantial relationship to the service member’s minor child for the duration of the parent’s absence, if delegating visitation rights is in the child’s best interest.” Our law also explains that the court will hold expedited hearings or submit electronic testimony when deployment, temporary duty, or mobilization may affect a soldier’s ability to appear in person at a scheduled hearing.

To answer the second question regarding the end of deployment, the same section of Mississippi Code contains a provision like Article 4 of the UDPCVA, stating that “(3) When a parent who has custody, or has joint custody with primary physical custody, receives temporary duty, deployment or mobilization orders from the military that involve moving a substantial distance from the parent’s residence having a material effect on the parent’s ability to exercise custody responsibilities:

(a) Any temporary custody order for the child during the parent’s absence shall end no later than ten (10) days after the parent returns, but shall not impair the discretion of the court to conduct a hearing for emergency custody upon return of the parent and within ten (10) days of the filing of a verified motion for emergency custody alleging an immediate danger of irreparable harm to the child; and

(b) The temporary duty, mobilization or deployment of the service member and the temporary disruption to the child’s schedule shall not be factors in a determination of change of circumstances if a motion is filed to transfer custody from the service member.

(c) Any order entered under this section shall require that:

(i) The non-deployed parent shall make the child or children reasonably available to the deployed parent when the latter parent has leave;

(ii) The non-deployed parent shall facilitate opportunities for telephonic, “webcam,” and electronic mail contact between the deployed parent and the child or children during deployment; and

(iii) The deployed parent shall provide timely information regarding the parent’s leave schedule to the non-deployed parent.”

If you are a member of the United States military and would like to learn more about the UDPCVA then please contact the law office of Matthew S. Poole. We would be more than happy to assist with your child custody or visitation arrangements in lieu of deployment, temporary duty, mobilization, or for any other reason.

Thank you for your service.

*Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act. Information about the UCCJEA and a summary of its application can be found in our previous article “The Jurisdiction Determination in Child Custody Cases.”

Written by Jessica Jasper, J.D. Candidate, Class of 2020, Mississippi College School of Law