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Military child custody case garners national headlines

Imagine that you're a divorced parent who was granted legal and physical custody of your young daughter following divorce several years earlier. Your first wife was granted visitation rights, but only with supervision. You are now working remotely, while your second wife cares for the child.

And "working remotely" in your case means, well, really remotely. In fact, you are somewhere at sea, attending to your duties as a Navy sailor while on deployment in a nuclear submarine.

The above describes the basic fact pattern of a real case following military divorce. What recently happened in the matter, while also true, might strike some readers in Arkansas and elsewhere as being close to outlandish fiction.

In a nutshell: The first wife applied to a family law court for a change in circumstances, and the judge ordered the husband to appear. When he didn’t, the court entered a warrant for his arrest and ominously hinted that his custody rights might be revoked in favor of his former wife.

That ruling got more media play than the judge likely anticipated. In fact, critics were vocal and many, with one national lawmaker stating that servicemembers are “placed at a severe disadvantage in child custody proceedings.”

Following the outcry, the hearing judge backtracked by postponing proceedings in the case, stating that she lacked knowledge of the father’s deployment.

Notwithstanding federal legislation termed the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act that provides some protection for military members in family law matters, advocates for change say that the law is inadequate and needs bolstering.

There are obviously singular considerations that are absent in civilian divorces that can emerge when military couples engage the family law process. An experienced military divorce lawyer can help a military client fully advance his or her best interests in any divorce-related matter.

Source: Army Times, "Custody case highlights a dilemma of deployment," Lance M. Bacon, July 8, 2014

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