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Uniform Deployed Parent Custody and Visitation Act: Stepping towards a standardized family law for military families

Uniform Deployed Parent Custody and Visitation Act:  Stepping towards a standardized family law for military families

The custody aspect of divorce proceedings is rarely a simple matter.  In any circumstance, distance can be difficult for families, but when a parent is a military service member, in particular, the travel requirements of their occupation can quickly complicate child custody and visitation cases. 

Generally simple issues, such as each parent’s state of residence or which state law to apply, can quickly transform into complex legal questions of jurisdiction when one of the parents is in the military service and is subject to mobilizations, temporary duty, deployment and remote assignments.  To wit, the Uniform Deployed Parent Custody and Visitation Act (UDPCVA) is intended to protect the parental rights of military service members (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard) while they are abroad. 

Among those rights, the UDPCVA establishes that deployment does not change the residence of a service member and that courts cannot use past or future deployment alone to determine the best interests of a child.  The act sets a uniform standard for “military absence,” which provides that the mere absence of a military parent from a state will not be used to deprive that state of custody jurisdiction.   

In line with larger family law principles, the UDPCVA encourages parents to reach their own agreements and sets parameters for the form and execution of those agreements.  Under the act, a parent who is a military service member must give reasonable notice of their deployment.  Subsequent to proper notice, the UDPCVA encourages both parties to negotiate a written temporary order that will be signed by both parents, outlining the custody arrangement during deployment.  The agreement should be as detailed as possible and include allocation of care-taking authority and decision-making authority.  Under the UDPCVA, the agreement terminates either by agreement, upon return of the deployed service member parent, or by court order.

If parents cannot come to a mutual agreement, the UDPCVA contains provisions for the court to rule on custody issues prior to deployment via an expedited hearing, so that the matter can be settled before deployment.  In the event that the custody agreement or order requires modification during deployment, the UDPCVA provides that the courts can make decisions to grant temporary custody to a non-parent with a close and substantial relationship to the child.  Regardless, any custody order given by the court before or during deployment, however, is only temporary.  The UDPCVA disallows the courts from entering permanent custody orders without the consent of the service member parent to be deployed.

Even though the UDPCVA is not formal legislation, it does establish standardized guidelines that each state can adopt in full or in part, amending the portions of the uniform act that conflict with current state law.  So although the application of the UDPCVA will vary slightly from state to state, the uniform act provides an important source of basic legal rights to service members who are parents, while preserving the best interests of the children involved.

If you would like to learn about your parental rights as a service member, please contact Scales of Justice, LLC to set up a consultation.  The above information is not to be construed as legal advice but is solely for the purposes of general information.    

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