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Can I lose primary custody of my kids due to military deployment?

| Sep 18, 2020 | Divorce |

If you receive orders to serve overseas, you may need to relinquish your role as the custodial parent. If the non-custodial parent is fit to parent the children full-time in your absence, the court may determine this is the best course of action. In instances where your ex lost parental rights, is currently serving time or otherwise cannot care for the children, you may consider appointing a different guardian.

The American Bar Association (ABA) recommends active service members create a family care plan. You can then file your family care plan with the Department of Defense and your service branch. However, the ABA also does admit that courts may have the ability to override the plan.

Family care plan agreement

If you want to improve your family plan’s chances of standing up against a petition from your ex, seek their agreement for the plan’s terms. You may need to compromise to get an agreement, so consider what the bottom line is. The ABA also recommends updating the court orders to reflect the family care plan. This creates a formal agreement that your ex may have a more difficult time petitioning to change in your absence.

Servicemembers Civil Relief Act

Even after taking all of the precautions you can and seeking an agreement from your ex, they might still change their mind after you deploy. However, the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act may prevent your ex from making permanent changes to the custodial order. Even so, they may temporarily change the custodial agreement in your absence.

When you return to Texas, you may need to confirm whether state laws exist to prevent family courts from holding deployment or other military duties against you. Note that the court may still take a number of factors into consideration, such as how long you were away and how well the children have adjusted to their new home. Also keep in mind that children above 12 years old may get to voice their opinions on the parent they wish to remain with.