The military life is stressful for both the servicemember and his or her spouse. Because of this blank truth, divorce is extremely common among servicemembers. When a military divorce involves children, the stress of divorce becomes amplified, as it is not uncommon for judges to consider military service when making child custody determinations. Though it seems unfair, absences due to deployment and training can significantly undermine even the most attenuative parent’s custody goals. Fortunately, there are laws in place to protect military members’ parental rights despite deployments, transfers and training.
The Uniform Deployed Parents Custody and Visitation Act
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, the UDPCVA addresses the gaps in protections for military servicemembers provided by the Servicemember Civil Relief Act and state law. The UDPCVA contains five sections, each of which addresses the unique issues that arise during custody and visitation proceedings of deployed parents. A summary of those five sections is as follows:
- Article one sets out the notification requirements and prohibits the courts from considering past and future deployments when determining what is in the best interests of the child.
- Article two details how parents should go about making out-of-court custody and visitation arrangements during deployment.
- Article three grants parents who cannot agree the right to expedited proceedings to ensure an agreement is in place before deployment, and to prevent the judge from handing down a permanent order without the deployed parent’s consent.
- Article four establishes how parents should terminate a temporary custody order on their own and, if they cannot agree, when a court should intervene.
- Article five details the technical effective date of each individual agreement.
Alaska Statute § 25.20.095
Alaska is one of several states that has adopted similar legislation as the UDPCVA. According to FindLaw, the Military and Domestic Relations statute prohibits courts from factoring in a parent’s mobilization, temporary duty or deployment when making custody determinations. The statute grants a deployed parent the right to petition for a competent jurisdiction for visitation, custody or affirmative relief, and to delegate his or her parental rights to a family member. The law protects the deployed parent’s rights to continuing contact with the child so long as the contact is in the child’s best interests. It also requires the nondeployed parent to make the child reasonably available for visitation during the deployed parent’s leave.