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Preventing child custody problems while serving on active duty

Can you imagine coming home to Texas from active deployment in the military only to learn that you lost custody of your child while you were away? While that may sound outrageous and unlikely, it has actually happened in the past.

As a parent, you're obviously concerned with the overall well-being of your children. As a member of the U.S. military, it is also important that you are able to fully dedicate yourself to the mission at hand without stressing over custody-related issues.

Protecting your parental rights

Your custody or visitation rights should never be penalized because you are serving your country, nor should you have to worry about official court decisions being made that bear significant impact on your life when you are unable to be present as an active participant in a hearing. There are several things to remember to protect your rights:

  • State laws vary: Some states have very specific laws pertaining to child custody issues as they relate to members of the military. You will want to be aware of the laws in the state that has jurisdiction over your children's custody to avoid any negative surprises while you are deployed.
  • There is a federal law that may help you: The Service Member's Relief Act protects you from being sued in civil court while serving a deployment. To activate this protection, you must first invoke the law.
  • Custody laws alone may not suffice: While there are several pertinent laws that help protect your rights as a parent on active military duty, it is typically best to execute a detailed custody agreement that contains all necessary information and possibilities regarding your military service so your time away will not negatively affect your custody situation.

As a well-informed parent, you're better able to protect your rights so you won't come home to a situation that makes you feel as though you've stepped into a custody nightmare.

Customizing your child custody plan

We've already mentioned the benefits of including information regarding your military service in your custody agreement. Consider the following helpful suggestions when deciding what to add to a particular plan:

  • You may designate a stand-in visitor in your absence: Did you know you are able to select a person to exercise your visitation rights while you're away on active duty? Whether you choose a grandparent, spouse or close friend, the designated person is able to visit with your children according to the visitation schedule you would normally follow when not deployed.
  • Use technology to your advantage: Let's face it - it's tough being away from your kids for extended periods of time. You can include stipulations in your custody agreement that allow you to video chat or use other forms of internet service to see and talk with your children while you're away.
  • Make up for lost time: You'll obviously want to spend as much time as possible with your children when you return home from active duty. You can request written provisions to allow you extra time for visiting beyond your usual visitation schedule.

These and other options can help you maintain a close relationship with your children while performing your military duties overseas or in another state far from home. It may also provide peace of mind so you don't have to worry that your dedicated service to your country will in any way conflict with your child custody agreement.

You may have already thought ahead about such matters and done as much as you can to create a plan that keeps your children's best interests at heart and allows you to give 100 percent effort to your military duties when needed.

If you still find yourself facing a contentious situation in light of all you've done to avoid one, it may comfort you to know there are people who can advocate on your behalf in Texas to resolve any custody problems that arise due to your work in the military.

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