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Could your Active Duty status hurt your chances for custody?

If you are currently fighting for custody, your active duty status could affect your case.

Although a servicemember is always prepared, it is difficult to predict the outcomes of a child custody hearing much less when you may be called to duty. If you are concerned that your Active Duty status could work against you, you should know your legal rights.

Federal protection

Servicemembers deserve respect and protection for their right to be both fathers and soldiers. In response to the fluctuating divorce rate among men and women in military positions, federal government enacted the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act in 2003 to protect single military parents and their custody rights.

If you are called to active duty or deployed in the middle of a child custody case, this Act results in the following:

  • A nearly automatic 90-day stay or halt to any custody court proceeding
  • Halt any new custody hearings if your spouse attempts to change custody arrangements while you are away

There is another federal act that addresses further issues related to custody and military members, called the Uniform Deployed Parents Custody and Visitation Act. However, Alaska does not currently fall under its protection. A lawyer can always best explain local and federal laws.

State protection

Alaska has additional legislation that ensures many further protections regarding custody, such as:

  • A court is not allowed to consider your active duty/potential future deployment against you when determining custody.
    • Being deployed does not mean you waive your visitation rights
  • You have the right to contact your child, with video image whenever able
    • The non-deployed parent must make the child available for visitation when you are on leave
  • You may file for custody once you return from active duty
  • Both parents must provide immediate notification of relocation, including new addresses
  • No child may be in the custody of someone who has, or someone in their family has, a history of domestic abuse

Your custody and visitation rights should never be threatened by your Active Duty status. If you are facing a court hearing and worry your military status will be used against you, a lawyer with experience in military cases could offer the most specific information related to your case.

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