Important Steps To Be Considered For Active Duty Military Parents Facing Custody Issues
This is the second of a two-part article. Click here to read the first part discussing other important steps to be considered by military members before deployment.
Military service in itself creates the need for maintaining a status quo in regards to jurisdiction. The words “Home of Record” should be the key starting point in any custody order involving military families. During the course of a military career there will be many “current”, or temporary, addresses due to changes in assignment. It is therefore important that an initial custody order specifies that the jurisdiction will be permanently retained in the “Home of Record” where the action was first heard, unless both parties consent to a different venue.
While as a general rule, the UCCJEA provides that jurisdiction “follow the child” under the “Convenient Forum” section, military duty should be considered an exception, especially when the transience of the residential parent is in direct violation of the custody order. Too often the residential parent simply moves the child to a new jurisdiction without required notice to the court or without a motion to modify being filed. It is extremely important that the military parent immediately retain legal counsel and seek relief through a contempt action. The contempt action should also be filed if there is ongoing interference with contact with the child. Many jurisdictions in this country now allow telephonic testimony so the presence of the attorney at any hearings is sufficient for the action to proceed.
It is highly recommended that all departing military parents, in addition to their “Family Plan”, get a modification of their current custody order to address the change in visitation schedules inherent in reassignment. Some of the issues needing dealt with include telephone or webcam contact, visitation with notice to take into consideration leaves and furlough, summer and holiday visitation when possible, contact with extended family members living near the child and a myriad of other considerations unique to the individual case.
For those departing parents who do not have any formal custody order, it is imperative that one be put in place. No matter how cooperative the other parent may be before a military departure, keep in mind that there is nothing to govern any of their behavior afterward unless there is an order in place. Ideally, this could be accomplished by an agreed entry, but unfortunately this is rarely possible. It is much more difficult and more expensive starting from scratch when all contact with the child is cut off and there is no order in place to enforce.
When looking for an attorney, one major question for them should always be “Are you able to handle the special circumstances surrounding active duty military and custody issues?” It helps an attorney prepare an adequate contempt action if you keep a journal, log or other record of the refusal of the other parent to cooperate with maintaining contact between the absent parent and child. Sometimes it can become necessary to file to modify the order for a change in primary custody. The record of bad behavior can be valuable in these cases.
Military Parents Must Be Proactive In Custody Actions Before Military Deployment
What the military parent is protecting is the right to have an ongoing relationship and as much contact as possible with his child. Any action necessary to ensure this should be started as soon as possible when the interference begins. The longer it takes to proceed in asking for enforcement, the bigger the challenge in getting a remedy. This is one situation that requires a parent to be proactive in retaining his rights.
Our guest contributor this week is Judianne Cochran a nationally recognized expert/consultant in the following disciplines: sex offender profiling; false allegations in custody cases; interstate and international parental abduction; military; interstate custody and parental alienation. She has testified in numerous Courts throughout Ohio and the country. Judi presently resides in Columbus, Ohio.
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