Deployed Military Service Members’ Custody Rights in Florida
Military life is a unique and difficult, filled with constant deployments, required moves, random shifts, and general uncertainty. Marriage is difficult in the best of circumstances, but military spouses face even more adversity. If a military family decides to divorce, they face circumstances involving deployments that a civilian family would not encounter, including very complex child custody situations.
Florida Statute 61
Florida has a rich history of protecting the children of military families throughout the years through Florida Statute 61.13002. The “Uniform Deployed Parents Custody and Visitation Act” created part IV of Florida Statute 61.703 – 61.773. and was officially enacted on July 1, 2018. This law greatly changed the way military service members that are in the process of being deployed can handle issues concerning their child’s care while they are on deployment.
Florida is the 14th state to pass this act for service members. This 19 page bill sponsored originally by Rep. Larry Metz, R-Groveland, and a sister bill in the Senate, SB 1598, sponsored by Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, R-LaBelle, provided more options for military service members to find options for their child’s care while they are on deployment.
Ultimately the passage of this law states that a military service member can enter into agreements to have additional family or non-family members spend time with their child while they are deployed on military duty. The new portion of Statute 61 also allows for quicker court hearings when there are disagreements regarding custody, and prohibits the establishment of a permanent custody arrangement prior to the deployment of the service member.
The members of our military should be given our ultimate respect and do not deserve to be treated unfairly simply because they may be called to active duty and deployed. This law allowed them the freedom to decide who will take care of their child in their place when they are serving our nation. Prior to the passage of this section of Statute 61, established Florida law stated that the military service member would be allowed to designate a “family member, step-parent, or relative of the child by marriage.” This portion of the statute expanded the definition of a “caretaking” person to include non family members, and anyone with whom the parent determines the child has a close position relationship of substantial duration and depth.
While everyone would agree that a military service member on deployment should have a right regarding the care of their child while they are on deployment, this law could pose several legal challenges. The statute allows extended family members (and oftentimes non-family members) to exercise time-sharing with the minor child while the military service member is deployed. If a military service member chooses a distant family member, new girlfriend, or friend to spend time with their minor child, this could add layers of legal complications for the custodial parent.
Questions immediately being to arise surrounding this law. Will the non-custodial selected person have rights regarding the child’s school, medical care, activities, etc? The potential for litigation surrounding the invasion of the Constitutional rights of the parent by grandparents, aunts, uncles, or even family friends could be a possibility.
Let Us Help You Today
If you are seeking or are already involved in a divorce proceeding, contact the Fort Lauderdale divorce attorneys at the office of Joyce A. Julian, P.A., to guide you through the legal challenges you are facing. You need an experienced family law attorney on your side during any divorce, but especially if you are navigating the challenging complexity child custody while one spouse is an active military service member facing deployment. Having a compassionate advocate during this stressful time can help you feel confident your rights are being protected. Contact us today at 954-467-6656 or online.