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Military deployments can make child custody complicated

Child custody situations often grow complicated when parents want to move for their careers. When that career is in the military, it can become even more complex than many people realize.

For instance, perhaps a military member has joint custody with their ex. When they're stationed at their home base, it's a simple matter of exchanging the children once a week, as any other parent would. But how does that change when they get deployed? It can happen quickly, they may be gone for weeks or months, and it's clear that the standard child custody plan is not going to work.

Below are a few questions parents tend to ask in this situation:

  • If the custody rules have to change during the deployment, is that change going to become legally permanent at a later date? Could they lose their standard schedule or parental rights even after they get back from the deployment?
  • What obligations does their ex have during a sudden deployment? If they find out they need to leave almost immediately and inform their ex, how do they quickly exchange the children and set up a new custody schedule?
  • While the military member is deployed, who else has visitation rights to see the children? Could the grandparents have these rights? Will the grandparents even get involved in the overall custody of the child, or is the other parent the only one who can care for the kids?
  • What happens when the person who is in the military gets transferred and assigned to a new base? They may still be in the United States, but they could be a long way from Washington.
  • If the military member is at another base in another state, and a child custody dispute arises, what court has jurisdiction over that dispute? What does that mean for the logistics of the case if the person lives a long way from that court?

Some military members worry that they will not get the custody rights that they deserve based on their careers. They want to stay involved with their kids. They want to be loving, supportive parents. Is the court going to deny that and give sole custody to an ex just because they may get deployed or transferred? What can they do to make sure that the court respects their rights and they can still be a part of their children's lives?

These are all important questions to ask, and it's critical that all military members know exactly what rights they have and what legal steps to take if they get divorced.

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