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Service members and child custody: what to do during deployment?

On Behalf of | Jul 25, 2014 | Child Custody

There are a number of men and women in Columbus who are in the military and, even though we are sending far fewer people to fight overseas these days, a number of these military members remain deployed. Though many of these deployed service members hope to come back to their families and pick up where things left off, that is, sadly, not always what happens. There are a number of major family upheavals that some members of the military return to, including divorce and child custody issues.

Sometimes, service member’s spouses or ex-spouses try to initiate family law proceedings while the service member remains deployed. Though the federal Servicemembers Civil Relief Act grants deployed members of the military a temporary suspension of child custody cases, many courts do not always know about the law or its provisions.

This was evident in a recent child custody case in which a deployed service member was requested to appear for a child custody hearing with his former wife. Though the case is based out of Michigan, these kinds of situations are far from unique.

The judge before whom this case was heard threatened to issue an arrest warrant for the father after he failed to appear in court and after he failed to produce the daughter at the center of the child custody hearing. The problem was, however, that he was in a submarine in the middle of the ocean at the time of his hearing.

Fortunately, the man’s attorney was able to remind the judge of the Servicemembers Act and the hearing was postponed before the father was stripped of his custody and before an arrest warrant was issued. Other members of the military may not always be so lucky.

Source: Army Times, “Custody case highlights a dilemma of deployment,” Lance M. Bacon, July 5, 2014