Spotlight on military divorce: deployment and custody issues

On behalf of Stange Law Firm, PC posted in Military Divorce on Wednesday, July 23, 2014.

There are many military servicemembers in Illinois and Missouri, and they are obviously just as interested as are other military members serving throughout the country and abroad with family law matters that concern them.

Military divorce is one of those matters, with divorce for servicemembers often being more subjected to strains than is the case for civilian couples. In the military, one spouse is often working at a location far removed from his or her family. Aside from the obvious stresses that can add to a marriage, it can also render things like child custody and child support flatly problematic following a marital dissolution.

A recent high-profile military case involving a Navy sailor and his daughter amply bears that out.

The material facts of the matter are quickly told. Following divorce, the sailor received legal and physical custody of his young daughter and subsequently remarried. While he was on deployment in a nuclear submarine, with his second wife caring for the child, his ex-wife petitioned a court for a change in status regarding a family law matter.

For obvious reasons, the sailor did not personally show up.

The result of the hearing: The judge issued a warrant for his arrest and warned that he could lose custody of his child.

Not unexpectedly, one media article relating the story termed that outcome an “outrage that reached all the way to the halls of Congress.”

The hearing judge subsequently postponed all proceedings in the matter, stating that she had been unaware of the father’s deployment.

Although military members are afforded protections in family law matters pursuant to provisions in the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, some legislators point to the sailor’s case as evidence that the legal rights of military members need to be further strengthened.

A central takeaway from the case is that any servicemember confronted with a family law matter of some complexity can optimally pursue his or her legal rights by securing the aggressive and knowledgeable representation of a proven military divorce attorney.

Source: Army Times, “Custody case highlights a dilemma of deployment,” Lance M. Bacon, July 5, 2014

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