Among the many effects military service can have on the lives of those in uniform, the potential impact on their families is perhaps the most burdensome. Deployments not only could strain family bonds but also could open the door for a possible custody dispute. It’s important for military men and women to understand the implications of the law regarding their parental rights.
The laws in Florida protect the rights of service men and women to maintain contact with their children while deployed. They require that both parents do their best to cooperate and reach an arrangement concerning child support, visitation and custody. Service members who won’t be able to exercise their time-sharing rights while deployed are allowed to designate a blood relative or someone related to the child by marriage to serve as a proxy if the deployment will last 90 days or more. When a service person’s deployment is completed, child custody arrangements in place before the deployment are to be restored.
When a Florida court considers requests for changes in permanent parental responsibility or time sharing orders, it isn’t allowed to use a serviceperson’s deployment as the only determining factor. The nonmilitary parent may be able to have his or her child support responsibilities reduced or otherwise abated during the military parent’s deployment. However, only in due consideration of the child’s best interests may the court issue temporary orders affecting time sharing.
If a nonmilitary parent attempts to obtain child custody modification, and the military parent is unable to be present in court due to his or her deployment, the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act could offer some protection. Military OneSource states that the SCRA may be invoked to automatically postpone any administrative or court proceedings for 90 days when a member of the armed forces can’t participate due to deployment, temporary assignment or activation. The 90-day postponement must be requested in writing and doesn’t apply to any criminal proceedings.