Military Service and Child Custody

In Child Custody by Sarah Hink

If you are in the Military, you make a great many sacrifices in service of our Country. Among the greatest of these sacrifices is the extended time you spend away from your children. You miss milestones, birthdays, and the joy of watching them grow up. If you are separated or divorced from your children’s other parent, or if you have to find alternative care for your children during deployment, the anxiety of that lost time multiplies as you may feel uncertain about jeopardizing your custody of the children in service to our country. If you reside in North Carolina, you have special rights that can protect you during your deployment.

North Carolina Adopted the Uniform Deployed Parents Custody and Visitation Act

North Carolina has adopted the Uniform Deployed Parents Custody and Visitation Act, which is a series of statutes that helps temporarily resolve custody disputes for parents who are going to be deployed. Some of the key provisions include:

  1. A deploying parent is required to notify the other parent of a pending deployment. This is a pre-requisite to the protections of the law. This notice must be provided within seven days of receiving a notice of deployment.
  2. Parents can reach a legally binding, temporary custody order during the period of deployment. This temporarily replaces any current custody order and establishes the caretaking and decision-making responsibilities of the parents. It also sets out the frequency and conditions of electronic communications between the parent and children during the deployment, as well as allows for visitation during any leave from deployment.
  3. If the parents cannot reach an amicable temporary agreement, the Uniform Deployed Parents Custody and Visitation Act creates an opportunity for an “expedited” hearing before the court prior to the deployment. After hearing the evidence, the court has the discretion to: (1) enforce an older order regarding custody during deployment; or (2) enter new temporary custody orders in the child’s best interest. The court will allow a “liberal” amount of electronic communication between the child and the deployed parent, unless the contact is contrary to the child’s best interest.
  4. The temporary orders provide for non-parents, such as grandparents or other relatives, to have access to the children, decision-making authority, or caretaking authority. This helps to continue some normalcy for the child if they have a close relationship with a family member.
  5. The temporary orders under this Act expire when the deployment ends.

Let New Direction Family Law Assist You

If you or your child’s other parent are an active military member facing deployment and are concerned about the care of the children during the deployment, please contact us. New Direction Family Law wants to help serve you and your children and allow you to feel secure that the children are cared for during the deployment. We practice in Wake, Johnston, Lee, Harnett, Cumberland, Nash, Granville, Franklin, and Durham counties. Call our office today at (919) 719-3470 for a consultation, or online at our website.