Child Custody in Military Families
I read a recent Yahoo! News article about the challenges that military families have when dealing with a parent (or both parents) deploy overseas. It’s extremely hard on the single parent left behind and it’s extremely hard on the children. In addition to the possibility of deployment, military members often get reassigned, involuntarily, to other locations. Fortunately, if the serviceman is married to another member of the military, the military will reassign them together. What happens when military members are divorced and one gets reassigned?
The military, if 2 people are not married, will not consider a joint reassignment. That makes it extremely difficult when the couple has a child together and they were either sharing parenting time or one parent had sole custody but the other had regular visitation rights. In that case, when happens all the time, the parents will have to go back to court to settle on a new custody arrangement.
These types of cases are generally call Removal cases because one parent is usually requesting that the child be removed from Massachusetts to live full time in another state. If the parents cannot agree on a custody arrangement on their own, the court will make a determination for them. They will look to see what is in the best interest of the child and also whether there is a real advantage in one parent moving while another parent stays. Usually if there’s a job or military reassignment, there is definitely a real advantage to the parent for them to leave the Commonwealth.
How the court makes a decision is very complex. Child custody lawyers for both parents will really need to convince a judge one way or the other if the parents don’t agree. In a lot of cases, a guardian ad litem will be very useful to a judge in making his determination.
My advice for military families is that if you’re getting divorced and figuring out the parenting and custody situation, make advance plans for what happens when one parent gets deployed or reassigned. You don’t want to deal with the issue at a later date because you will be spending twice the time, money, energy and heartache to litigate the issue and fight again. Figure it out the first time around.