Virginia father in child custody battle due to deployment, p. 1

On behalf of Jarrell, Hicks & Waldman, PC posted in Military Family Law on Wednesday, July 25, 2012.

In 2007, a Navy Petty Officer was deployed while his wife was pregnant with their daughter in Virginia. When he returned home he found that his wife had left their home in Virginia and moved to Arizona with their 7-month-old daughter. She also refused visitation rights to the military father. After petitioning a Virginia judge in an attempt to get his daughter returned to her home state, the judge declared he did not have jurisdiction because the Petty Officer had been given orders by the military to leave the state of Virginia.

The father stated that the Virginia judge did indeed have jurisdiction and should have ordered the return of his daughter. After going through a slew of attorneys he is still without success in his custody and visitation battle for his daughter almost five years later. The father said he feels he has fewer rights being in the military than if he were a civilian. The courts are unsure of what rights he has under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, which offers certain legal protections to military personnel during their service period.

It is this and stories like it that inspired the Uniform Law Commission, a group of 350 attorneys from every state who recently met to give their final approval to the Deployed Parents Custody and Visitation Act. The Act is a collection of uniform codes written by the group that states can adopt to better protect the parental rights of parents who are deployed in the military.

Family law has historically been a states' rights issue and these laws maintain those individual rights but also provide uniform language all states can follow when addressing child custody and visitation issues involving deployed parents during a divorce or legal separation. Many states, like the case in Virginia, have struggled with jurisdictional problems presented when one parent is deployed to a different state. Does the parent's home state have jurisdiction or the state in which he or she has been deployed?

Watch for next week's post to continue on this topic and what the Uniform Law Commission's next steps are.

Source: Associated Press, "US Panel: Improve child custody rules for military," Kristin M. Hall, July 18, 2012

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