When the military relocates a divorced spouse who is a service member away from the other ex-spouse, what happens with the kids?
In our last post, we introduced the Uniform Deployed Parents Custody and Visitation Act (UDPCVA), which the Florida legislature adopted effective July 1, 2018. The UDPCVA provides a legal framework for temporary custody, visitation and parental decision-making authority of children during their divorced parent’s military deployment.
At the request of either parent, the Florida UDPCVA allows a state court to issue temporary orders about “custodial responsibility” for a child when a military deployment is for less than 18 months if the orders also prevent family accompaniment or dependent travel. Florida parental relocation law would normally apply to longer deployments.
Notice of deployment
With some exception, when a parent receives notice of deployment, they have seven days to notify the other parent and propose how to adjust custody and parental responsibility during the deployment.
Prior order or agreement
Unless the court believes it would not be in a child’s best interest, it must honor a prior court order or written agreement between the parents that directs what arrangements will kick in in case of deployment.
Temporary nonparent caretaking authority
The UDPCVA allows the deploying parent to ask the court to give temporary “caretaking authority,” to a nonparent relative or nonrelative with whom the child has a “close and substantial relationship.” For example, the military parent could ask the court to allow a grandparent, aunt or uncle to have custody or visitation rights during deployment.
If the other parent does not agree, the court must limit the nonparent’s caretaking authority to the deploying parent’s current amount of ordered or habitual parenting time, plus travel time.
The court may give the same type of nonparent adult decision-making authority only if the military parent will not be able to exercise it such as via electronic communications. The court must also consider other parent’s role and it must be in the child’s best interest. (Decision-making authority is traditionally called legal custody and is the power to make important decisions for the child like those concerning health care, education and religion.)
Alternatively, the parents may enter into an agreement specifying temporary arrangements they agree on for custody, visitation and decision-making authority. Both parents and any nonparent who will temporarily have these responsibilities must sign the agreement and it must be filed with the court.
Power of attorney
If the nonmilitary parent has no custodial rights or decision-making responsibility or a court has ordered no contact between them and the child, the deploying parent who has sole custodial and decision-making powers may transfer them temporarily to a nonparent adult via a power of attorney form.
Other matters under the Act
During the deployment, the court must allow “liberal communication,” including electronic communication, between the child and military parent as well as “liberal contact” during leave from deployment, unless either of these would not be in the child’s best interest.
The court has some authority to adjust child support during deployment.
This is a high-level look at an important, detailed Florida law. Any Florida parent facing military deployment or whose child’s other parent does should speak with a family lawyer as soon as possible to understand the choices available to resolve child custody issues during the service member’s absence.