As an active duty servicemember, something you will always have to face is frequent relocation. Military personnel often find themselves receiving a permanent change of station, which means that they will need to move within the next coming weeks or months. While this is an expected part of military life, it can make things very complicated for those who have children with an ex-spouse.
How does military relocation affect child custody?
When a servicemember is told that they will be relocating out of the country or state in which they currently reside, this can affect child custody. Most of the time, military divorce cases include a parenting plan, which takes the needs of military families into consideration. Therefore, there is a good chance that your divorce plan addresses military relocation if you were an active duty servicemember at the time of your divorce.
If your divorce papers do not take into consideration that you are an active duty servic member who may receive a permanent change of station at any time, you will be treated like any other family before the judge. Therefore, it is important to know that the custodial parent, which is typically the parent who makes decisions for the child, cannot just wake up one day and move the children. So, if you are the custodial parent, you cannot make the instant decision to move your children to wherever you are being relocated. The only way you can successfully do this is by seeking a modification to the child custody plan.
How do you change a child custody plan?
If you already have child custody orders in place but they do not contain any information about a military permanent change of station, you will need to modify your child custody orders. However, before you get started on doing this, there are a couple important factors that you should be aware of, such as:
- Custody orders are usually decided by state laws. Therefore, the court will refer to your state’s laws regarding custody when modifying your child custody order and possibly relocating your children.
- There are several states that require you to show that a specific move will positively benefit your children. Therefore, when you request to keep custody and relocate your children, you may need to show that the move is in their best interest before the judge will approve the relocation. This is typical in the state of Texas.
Modifications to relocate children are one of the most complex legal cases as the other co-parent may not agree to allowing the children to move to a different state or country. Therefore, it is recommended that you work with a knowledgeable and experienced family law attorney who can help show that it is in the best interest of the children to move.
What if the custodial parent is deployed?
The Servicemembers’ Civil Relief Act legally protects active duty military personnel from being denied child custody. Therefore, if you become deployed, you are legally allowed to request a hearing postponement if you are unable to attend or proceed with a custody case due to your military service. In addition, you also have the right to receive an automatic stay of 90 days if “the defense cannot be presented without the defendant’s presence.”
That said, if your ex-spouse decides to modify your child custody agreement or status while you are deployed, you can use the Servicemembers’ Civil Relief Act to ensure that your rights remain protected and delay the hearing. Both parents must agree to the child custody modification, which means that the court cannot permanently change custody status simply because one parent is deployed. However, you must keep in mind that it is possible for a parent to request temporary custody status during your deployment.
If the court does not believe that it is in the child’s best interest to live with their other parent while you are deployed, the court will take this into consideration and request that you choose a person for temporary custody during your deployment. If you do not do this, the court will decide who the child will reside with during this time. The temporary custody orders will end when your deployment is completely over.
How can a San Antonio family law attorney help with my child custody modification?
When a military servicemember is told that they are relocating in the next few months, the clock automatically begins ticking. You may feel stressed, frustrated, and overwhelmed as you have children who are in school and a child custody order in place. The state of Texas takes military families into account and will require you to make a child custody modification before relocating with your children. However, if you want to make sure that the process goes as quickly and smoothly as possible, it is highly recommended that you hire a lawyer to handle the process for you.
Our San Antonio family law attorneys at Grable Grimshaw PLLC understand that you are on a tight schedule with many demands to meet before moving. Therefore, we will work with you to organize everything and determine the best arguments to show the court that it is in the best interest of the children to move with you. Our lawyers will work endlessly to ensure that your legal responsibilities are taken care of, while you focus on packing and getting ready to move.
The lawyers at Grable Grimshaw PLLC are skilled and experienced when it comes to helping military personnel protect their rights and reach the best outcome for their children. Our team understands that navigating divorce and child custody issues while in the military is difficult, which is why we will remain by your side, ensuring that you are aware of everything going on with your case. Please do not hesitate to call our office or complete our contact form to schedule an appointment at our San Antonio office.