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How military service may impact child custody in a divorce

On Behalf of | Mar 12, 2020 | Divorce |

When couples are going through a divorce, custody decisions may be among the most difficult decisions they make. Military OneSource explains that custody planning can be further complicated for Alabama families who have one or both parents in the military. 

Both military and non-military parents must understand how service may influence child custody. 

Active service members may postpone custody proceedings  

The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act benefits all service members on active duty, including members of the National Guard, Coast Guard and reserve. This federal law allows military members to get a 90-day stay, or postponement, of civil matters like child custody hearings. A judge may choose to extend this stay for a longer period. This postponement gives the active-duty service member additional time to prepare for a custody hearing but does not impact the custody arrangement itself. 

Military parents may need a family care plan  

According to the American Bar Association, the SCRA is silent about custody of a child during deployment of the military parent. If parents have a custody order in place prior to deployment, that order will govern unless a court determines otherwise. If the family does not have a court-ordered custody agreement or the agreement is silent about where the child will live during a deployment, then the military parent must create a family care plan to specify where the child will stay. The Department of Defense requires the military parent to give the non-military parent input into this plan. 

A family care plan is not a custody order, and parents in the service should be careful not to circumvent or overrule a custody order that is in place.