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Navigating child custody as an active service member

Serving in the military comes with many challenges, and the constant possibility of deployment can create tension and additional stress in a marriage. During long periods while you're away serving the country, your spouse might feel overwhelmed at home and stuck caring for the kids. Your career may get in the way of your marriage and could lead to divorce.

Being in the military involves frequent travel, oftentimes even overseas, so you might wonder how you could still see your kids after a divorce, or if you could even make it to a custody hearing.

What is the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act?

Typical child custody battles require you to show up in court during a specific period, but deployment can make that impossible. The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act helps you when you're on active duty by offering these specific protections:

  • Postponing or asking for a stay from a civil or administrative court date
  • Prevents the court from making a default judgement based upon your inability to attend a court session

While this act does offer some protection, it doesn't exempt you from following the law, and you still need to ask for a stay in a timely manner. Additionally, there are certain qualifications needed to be eligible for the Service Members Civil Relief Act.

What does child custody look like in a divorce?

As an active servicemember, you might fear deployment could affect your ability to obtain full custody of your children. That proves untrue, as New Jersey family courts look for what's in your child's best interests. The courts also frequently mandate that parents build a custody plan which considers the demands of each parent's job.

Being an active servicemember does create additional complications when developing a custody plan for your child. These include the following:

  • What happens in case of deployment?
  • What would a return from deployment look like?
  • How would your transfer out of state or out of the country affect the custody plan?

Servicemembers face difficulties in their marriages which lead to divorces like any other couples, and military divorces often involve child custody issues. Knowing your rights as a servicemember during a child custody battle can help you navigate the process.

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