If you or your ex is facing a military deployment, you may be wondering if and how you can modify custody arrangements to reflect this change in circumstances. Furthermore, you might be worried if your deployment will have any adverse impact on your custody agreement. Because custody cases involving military servicemembers must follow both Texas and federal laws, you should consider working with a reputable family law attorney who is familiar with these cases.
What Happens When a Servicemember Parent Is Deployed?
A military deployment does not trigger any automatic changes to standing custody or visitation arrangements, but either parent can request a temporary modification of the existing parenting agreement if one parent is ordered to military deployment, mobilization, or duty.
As Texas courts must prioritize the best interests of the child when deciding child support and child custody issues, a military deployment can be considered an impactful factor when weighing the best interests of the child. This is especially true if that deployment involves a long-distance move or materially impacts the servicemember parent’s ability to carry out their parenting responsibilities.
If you or your ex is deployed for military duty, you may ask a judge to temporarily reassign custody to:
- The child’s other, noncustodial parent
- Another person chosen by the custodial parent
- Another person chosen by the court
In these cases, a judge will give preference to the child’s other parent and will likely only grant custody to another person who is not the child’s parent if it is found that it is not in the child’s best interest to reside with that parent. Similarly, the court will only assign a person of their own choosing if they find it is not in the child’s best interests to reside with either the child’s other parent or the person chosen by the custodial parent.
What About Visitation During Military Deployment?
Judges are obliged to give special consideration to ensuring servicemember parents’ ability to visit and maintain contact with their children during deployments. As long as it is in the child’s best interests, any temporary order modifying an existing parenting agreement must make arrangements for:
- Visitation when the deployed parent is on leave
- Contact between the deployed parent and child during deployment
In some cases, a servicemember parent may be able to ask the court to assign their visitation time to another family member. That family member must already have a close relationship to the child and visitation must be in the child’s best interests.
What Happens After Deployment Ends?
The temporary, modified custody order is just that – temporary. Parenting arrangements should revert back to the original, permanent order once the deployed parent returns home. If, for whatever reason, a parent believes that it is not in the best interests of the child to return to the custody arrangements detailed in the previous order, the non-deployed parent carries the burden of proving that is the case. Servicemember parents in Texas can also ask the court for reasonable additional visitation time after they return from a deployment.
How an Attorney Can Help You Modify Custody Arrangements
If you or your ex is a military servicemember who may face deployment, it is important to hire a family law attorney who has experience representing military families. At Cynthia Tracy, Attorney at Law, P.C., we are proud of our long record of handling divorce, custody, and child support cases for military personnel. We understand that deployment can be a particularly stressful time for your family, and we are here to provide knowledgeable legal guidance and compassionate support to you and your family as you navigate the process of arranging custody during a military deployment.