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Military deployment causes issues with child custody

Imagine being in the middle of an ocean in a submarine beneath the surface of the water and learning that you might lose your child if you don't show up for a court hearing. That would be enough to nearly push someone over the edge. Sadly, that isn't an uncommon scenario for military members who are on active deployments while dealing with child custody issues. Our readers in Texas might be interested to know about a recent case that has brought this unique aspect of military life to light.

The case involves a man who is a submariner who was serving on an active deployment. Following his ex-wife's plea and sentencing in an assault case, the man was granted legal and physical custody of his daughter. The girl's mother was only allowed supervised parenting time without any overnight stays.

For the past four years, the submariner's wife has been caring for the girl while he is deployed. Last year, the child's biological mother filed for a child custody status change. This year, she filed for a child support reduction based on the fact that she has another baby and isn't working.

A hearing pertaining the child custody issues was set for June 2, but the submariner was unable to attend because he is actively deployed on a submarine. The judge presiding over the case ordered him to appear before her or "present the child" to the court by June 16. The man was unable to do so because of his deployment. The judge said that if the girl wasn't in her father's custody, she should be in her mother's custody. The girl's stepmother says that the biological mother will neglect her.

The submariner didn't appear for that hearing since he is deployed. On June 23, the judge postponed the hearing until October.

The submariner is covered by the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, which provides a 90-day window for actively deployed servicemembers to appear for child custody proceedings. That act also provides a temporary halt to civil proceedings and administrative proceedings that could negatively affect the servicemember.

This case shows how complex child custody cases can be for members of the military. Knowing about these types of provisions can help to ensure that your rights are respected as you go through a deployment.

Source: Navy Times, "Custody case highlights a dilemma of deployment" Lance M. Bacon, Jul. 05, 2014

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