Legal group works to standardize custody rights for deployed military parents

Over the last ten years, hundreds of thousands of armed forces personnel stationed here in the United States have been deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan, and other military installations around the globe. However, many of these brave men and women dedicated to protecting our country have experienced significant frustrations regarding child custody matters upon their arrivals home.

Specifically, while many states have introduced a hodgepodge of laws expressly designed to protect the rights of deployed U.S. military personnel in custody/visitation matters, these laws have not covered all possible scenarios and are nowhere close to being consistent from state to state.

Consequently, state courts have struggled mightily with a diverse array of military child custody issues such as:

  • What state has jurisdiction if a military parent is stationed in another state?
  • Should a temporary custody arrangement entered into while a military parent is deployed become permanent?
  • Do stepparents and/or grandparents continue to have visitation rights while a military parent is deployed?

In recent developments, a highly influential group of 350-plus attorneys appointed by all 50 states convened in Nashville just last week for the sole purpose of attempting to rectify this situation.

The Uniform Law Commission — a national legal panel devoted to helping create uniform state laws — met to approve the final version of their Deployed Parents Custody and Visitation Act. This model legislation provides a set of codes that the 50 states can adopt in order to standardize custody/visitation rights for deployed military parents.

“States are all across the board on those issues, so the impetus for the uniform act was to provide states with a well-conceived piece of legislation that takes the best practices from all the states that we have seen and give them some guidance,” said Eric Fish, legal counsel for the ULC.

It is important to understand that the uniform state laws regarding custody/visitation rights for deployed parents created by the ULC are only recommendations and do not have to be adopted by state legislatures.

However, the ULC has been crafting uniform state laws for over 100 years, and 49 states currently use the group’s Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act as the benchmark for establishing jurisdiction and child support orders between states.

ULC members will now turn their focus to convincing state legislatures to adopt the Deployed Parents Custody and Visitation Act. It remains to be seen how effective their efforts will be …

To learn more about child custody, visitation or parental rights, contact an experienced and skilled legal professional.

Stay tuned for more from our Ft. Worth family law blog …

This post is for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice.


Newsday, “U.S. panel: Improve child custody rules for military,” Associated Press, July 18, 2012