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Can my ex relocate my kids while I serve in the military?

Unlike many who apply for a job, something deeper compelled you to choose the profession in which you currently serve. Perhaps it was the inspiration of a family member or a world event that drew you to military service, but you have dedicated yourself to serving your country.

Unfortunately, this means you may not always be able to serve your family the way you would like. In fact, your divorce may be a result of your military service and the pressures such a lifestyle often places on marriages. Now that you are facing another deployment, you may be wondering how this will affect your child custody order.

Your parental rights and SCRA

One element of military life that often wears down a marriage is the frequent relocation. If you already went through a deployment or were stationed in a variety of places, your spouse may have felt alone, struggling to raise children in an unfamiliar place with no family close by to help. Since your divorce, your spouse may be planning to move with the children to be closer to family. This may be a violation of the court's custody order, or your spouse may have filed for the court's permission to relocate.

Just because you may be out of the country does not mean you have no rights regarding your children or your ex-spouse's relocation plans. In fact, the government protects your rights through the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. This act stipulates the following:

  • Applies to active duty military or those members of Reserves or Guards activated for duty
  • Does not apply to criminal proceedings or administrative hearings related to criminal charges
  • Allows a stay of any civil or administrative court proceedings in which your military service may prevent you from participating
  • Grants a 90-day stay if you request it in writing

In other words, if your deployment will have you out of the country or occupied with your duties while you are supposed to be in court fighting for your custody rights, the SCRA prevents the custody proceedings from going on without you.

If you agree that your ex-spouse's relocation plans are in the best interests of the children, you can show support by not contesting the request. However, you certainly want to ensure you have fair and adequate parenting time when you are able. In some states, like Virginia, the courts want to know the move will not harm your relationship with your child. An attorney can help you obtain evidence of this danger to your parental bond and make sure the court does not violate your rights under the SCRA.

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