Going through a divorce is tough enough; however, serving a deployment before your divorce is final can be stressful beyond belief. While you undoubtedly want to take care of personal issues so you can put the past behind you and move on in life, you also realize the importance of focusing on the task at hand when carrying out your military duties.
Especially if you are facing combat, mental distraction or personal stress from home can place your life and the lives of others at risk. Concerning child custody in Virginia, you'll want to learn as much as you can about the Service Member's Relief Act. It can protect your parental rights and prevent child custody problems while you're away.
Here are the basic facts
The Service Member's Relief Act does not only pertain to child custody situations. It is a federal law that encompasses all possible civil actions against you. The following list includes basic information about this law that may apply to your current situation:
- No one can sue you for anything while you are deployed and unable to be present in court.
- When you deploy, any and all proceedings regarding your divorce or child custody come to a temporary halt.
- If you already have an existing court order regarding a child custody plan, your co-parent cannot petition the court for modification of the court order while you are serving deployment.
- State laws sometimes vary, so you'll want to seek clarification of the laws in the state that holds jurisdiction over your children's custody case.
A critical factor in all situations regarding the Service Member's Relief Act is that you must invoke the law for it to apply to a particular set of circumstances. If your ex is particularly acrimonious and trying to give you the short end of the stick, he or she may use your deployment against you to try to convince the court that your children are better off permanently residing with a caregiver other than you.
Protect your rights and fight for your children's best interests
You know what is best for your kids. Your military duties do not necessarily make you an unfit parent. Many Virginia military parents have family care plans written out that include specific instructions regarding child custody situations. If you need help executing a plan or wish to discuss what you can do to avoid major custody problems during deployment, you can reach out for support from fellow service members who have gone through similar experiences, as well as tap into other local resources available.