Child Custody when One Parent Is in The Military
Going through a divorce with children is never easy, even under the best of circumstances. Both parents will understandably want to continue to spend time with their children and stay as close as they can to them. But what about those serving in the armed forces? When military servicemembers deploy or relocate, they often do not choose where they go. And, if they are currently sharing custody with an ex-spouse, this can interfere with visitation schedules. However, just because you are serving the country does not mean you should lose the right to see your children. If you or your ex-spouse is in the military and have questions regarding custody or visitation agreements, contact the Military Law Group today to discuss your options. I am committed to providing legal assistance for service men and women in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and throughout the Tulsa metro area.
Oklahoma Relocation Statute
Parents who share custody of a child must adhere to the Oklahoma Relocation Notification of Children. This law states that if a parent wishes to relocate out of state with their child, they must give the other parent ample notice of the move. Under this law, you must provide at least 60 days' notice of an impending move to give the other parent enough time to contest the move with the court if they wish. One parent may see a move as a violation of the established child custody agreement and request a modification. A judge can then decide if the move is in good faith or if it will unnecessarily deprive one parent of seeing their child. In some cases, this could result in the custody arrangement with the parent who is not moving, and they could receive primary custody.
As you can imagine, this law can affect servicemembers and families negatively since they are often in no control over where they are relocated to. Additionally, servicemembers often receive short notice that they will have to move and have several other tasks they need to complete before they are deployed; therefore, they don’t have time to respond in full to requests from their ex-spouse or a judge. Though specific provisions allow for a shortened notification window, it is still extremely hard for servicemembers to comply with this law. In an attempt to address these issues, the state has enacted the Oklahoma Deployed Parents Custody & Visitation Act (ODPCVA) to make it slightly easier for parents to deploy while still retaining their rights.
Oklahoma Deployed Parents Custody & Visitation Act
The ODPCVA is intended to help protect servicemember’s parental rights who share joint custody of children. This law includes two main provisions. First, if a servicemember is deployed, the visitation schedule that was in place before their deployment must be reinstated post-deployment. And second, while the servicemember is deployed they can assign someone else to continue observing the visitation schedule. That someone else could be a step-parent, grandparent, or other family members that will continue to spend time with the child in the deployed parent’s place.
While this is a positive step forward, it can still leave some parents without the protections they need since the law only applies to those servicemembers who were deployed. Under the language of the law, this does not cover other relocations such as mandatory training, which are common for those early in their military service.
Uniform Deployed Parents Custody and Visitation Act
The UDPCVA is a federal law that addresses the issue of parental rights of military men and women. Though this new law has been enacted by ten states and is in the process of enactment in others, it has not been enacted in Oklahoma. This law would broaden the definition of what counts as “deployment” to now include most “military absences'' that active-duty servicemembers are subject to. Currently, proponents of UDPCVA are attempting to have the Oklahoma legislature amend ODPCVA to include this new language.
How a Knowledgeable Attorney Can Help You
Men and women in service already make a big enough sacrifice by choosing to serve the country, and they should not have to sacrifice time with their children. And, even though you may not see your children during times of deployment, you should have the peace of mind knowing that your custody agreement will remain in place when you get back and that someone you trust is taking your place in upholding the visitation schedule while gone. Though these laws are not perfect, I remain committed to seeing that all parents have a meaningful relationship with their children through all that life brings them. If you are in Tulsa, Oklahoma, or the surrounding area and would like to discuss your concerns about child custody as a military parent or with a military parent, call me at the Military Law Group today.