While it used to be that deployed parents could lose primary custody after returning from deployment, that’s no longer the case. The Uniform Deployed Parents Custody & Visitation Act (UDPCVA), which was approved in 2012, helps to protect the rights of military parents who are deployed.
While not every state has adopted the act (it’s currently just a proposal for legislation), a number of states already have. Colorado, for instance, adopted the Act in 2013. The act is codified at C.R.S. 14-13.7-101.
How Does the UDPCVA Help to Protect Military Parents?
Under the act, a parent’s past or future deployment is not enough by itself to serve as the sole determining factor for what is in the best interest of the child. This is not to say that the courts must completely ignore a parent’s deployments concerning the custody of children, but it cannot be the only basis for a decision.
Under the act, a deployment does not legally change the military parent’s residence for purposes of the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act (UCCJEA). Furthermore, if a child is placed outside of the military parent’s state, it is considered part of an interim parenting schedule rather than an official change in the child’s home state.
When Do the Rules of the UDPCVA Apply?
It’s important to note that while the act applies to a deployment (movement or mobilization for 3 to 18 months), the act does not require that the deployment is to a hostile combat zone.
How to Establish an Agreement or Hearing
If a custody order is already in existence, a parent who is being deployed must inform the other parent of his or her deployment within 12 days of receiving orders – unless he or she is prevented from sharing the information due to military duties. Once the deploying parent informs the other parent, it’s a good idea to try to agree upon a parenting proposal as soon as possible.
Parents may establish an agreement for how the child will be parented while the one parent is deployed. While the agreement can be submitted to the Court, the parties are not required to do so.
If the deploying parent is already the only parent who has parental responsibilities for the child (e.g. the other parent signed away his or her rights), then the deploying parent can just designate someone else to take care of the child. This can be established through a power of attorney.
After the deploying parent provides notice of their deployment to the other parent, both parents have the right to file a motion for interim parenting responsibilities while the one parent is deployed. The court must then provide an expedited hearing.
Courts are required to enforce existing agreements.
However, the court may decide to grant limited contact or visitation (caretaking authority) to an adult family member or an adult who physically cares for the child for a minimum of 182 days.
Aside from deciding upon the care of the child during a parent’s deployment, an interim order must allow for:
- Liberal contact between the deploying parent and the child during any mid-tour leave;
- Communications between the deploying parent and child during the deployment; and
- Reasonable contact between the deploying parent and the child between the end of deployment expiration of the interim order.
It’s important to note that an interim order or agreement expires within 35 days after the deploying parent returns.
Post-Deployment Parenting Schedule
The Act makes clear that a grant of parenting authority during a deployment is interim only, and ends upon deployment. Section 308. Unless the parties agree otherwise, an interim agreement (Section 401) or interim order (Section 404) expires 35 days after the deploying parent returns.
The Court-Martial Law Division of Aviso Law LLC Helps Military Members in Colorado Who Are Battling for Custody of Their Kids
The U.S. Government has an interest in deciding situations as soon as possible since it does not wish to gain negative publicity about one of its service members. That is why it is so important to consult with a knowledgeable and experienced military attorney as soon as possible. If you are a military service member and are having difficulty agreeing upon child custody the Court-Martial Law Division of Aviso Law LLC can help. We proudly serve our military members, who sacrifice so much for our country. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation, contact us today!