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Best practices ensuring custody rights of military parents


Parents in Virginia who are in the military and fighting for custody of their child might be apprehensive that a court may reject their custody application because of the nature of their service. Military personnel on active duty might be required to stay away from their families for months while they are deployed elsewhere.

The Department of Defense believes that it is unfair if parents lose child custody or visitation rights solely because of their absence due to deployment. Therefore, USA4 Military Families have issued certain best practices which should be incorporated by state legislators in order to ensure that parents in the military are not unfairly deprived of their custody and visitation rights.

Permanent alteration to existing custodial arrangements should not be made when the custodial parent is absent due to military deployment. The custody order should not be altered solely because of previous, current or future possible military deployment. The custody order which was in place before the absence of the military parent should be reinstated upon his or her return unless the other parent can prove that it will not be in the best interest of the child.

Parents in military service who have been granted visitation rights should be allowed to file for a court order allowing them to delegate their visitation right to a third person during their absence due to military services. Courts should also allow the use of electronic testimony for service members when they are unavailable and expedite the hearing of custody matters involving parents in the military.

It is difficult for parents in military service to maintain a balance between their duty and their family life. However, they are entitled to the enjoyment of their family life in whatever limited opportunity they get when they are off duty. Legislators are urged to incorporate these basic principles when resolving military child custody disputes so that service men and women are not unfairly deprived of their parental rights. After defending America's freedom, they deserve to have their rights protected and to have peace of mind.

Source: USA4MilitaryFamilies.DoD.mil, "Issue 8: Ensure states consider uniqueness of military service when determining child custody," March 31, 2014

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