Life in the military, while rewarding, also presents a very unique set of challenges for parents, particularly those who are either single or divorced, as they must attempt to balance their demanding work schedules with their parental duties. This is especially true for those parents who have custody, but whose duties require them to be away for significant periods of time.

These often conflicting responsibilities not only serve to make things difficult for military parents and their children, but also for the entire armed forces. Indeed, the Department of Defense has indicated that the child custody and visitation struggles of deployed military parents can comprise a person’s ability to perform essential missions and have a detrimental impact on larger organizational efforts.

In recognition of this difficult reality and the need for a better solution, the Uniform Law Commission, which “provides states with non-partisan, well-conceived and well-drafted legislation that brings clarity and stability to critical areas of state statutory law,” devised the Uniform Deployed Parents Custody and Visitation Act back in 2012.

According to the ULC, the drafting of the UDPCVA — which has since been adopted by 10 states, including Arkansas — was really necessitated by three realities:

  1. The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act is limited in the protection it can provide to armed forces personnel: SCRA only mandates that judges grant 90-day stays in custody hearings while military parents are deployed, provides no real framework for the entry of temporary custody arrangements that resolve custody at least during the course of the deployment, and does not offer guidance on how courts can balance the interests of the service member against other important interests.
  2. State courts have taken differing approaches to custody issues during the deployments of military parents: Some state courts are granting temporary custody to a person chosen by the military parent (i.e., a grandparent), while others are simply granting temporary custody to the other natural parent regardless of the wishes of the military parent.
  3. State laws have taken differing approaches to custody issues during the deployments of military parents: While some states have laws addressing custody relating to service members on their books, but they are decidedly different in scope. Still others have taken no action whatsoever.

We will continue to examine this topic in future posts. Please consider speaking with an experienced legal professional if you have questions or concerns related to a military divorce or child custody matters.