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Children & Divorce

Child Custody and Visitation

While divorce ends a marriage, it doesn’t end your bond with your children, or your right to raise them. As a parent and a soldier, you serve your country to keep America safe for those you love the most. There is nothing more important than spending time with your children. Our law firm is dedicated to helping military parents get the child custody and visitation they deserve.

CHILD CUSTODY CHALLENGES

Your military service duty may require you to be outside the state or even the country for extended periods of time. If your deployment involves prolonged, frequent, or unpredictable periods of separation from the children, your ex-spouse may challenge you over custody of the children.

In Washington, the legal term for full child custody is Residential Placement. Courts can be reluctant to award residential placement to parents who are active duty military if they have an unpredictable schedule. This makes it challenging for service members to win full or joint child custody.

We believe you shouldn’t be punished for choosing to dedicate your life to protecting our country. Your self-sacrificing military service is heroic and should be recognized by the court. If you want custody of your children, we’re ready to stand by your side and fight for your rights in court. We know you want what’s in the best interest of your children. Our attorneys work closely with military parents to help you get custody and visitation rights. We work with you to show the courts why you will be the best care provider for your children and how they will benefit from their time with you.

child custody

FLEXIBLE VISITATION SCHEDULES

Even if you choose not to, or are unable to have your children live with you full time, you want to be able to spend as much time with them as possible. During the divorce process, you and your attorney will negotiate a Parenting Plan which will detail a visitation schedule.

Fair visitation can be challenging for service members. If you are active-duty military, your schedule can be unpredictable. You might not be able to pick your children up from school because you don’t have a 9-to-5 schedule. That doesn’t mean you don’t deserve full visitation with your children.  If you are located somewhere other than where the kids reside, you can still pursue extended summer visitation along with other reoccurring school break periods.

As we mentioned before, temporary orders are important and set the tone for the final orders.  If you file and concede custody in the initial paperwork, you will have to argue why that should no longer be the case in the future.  We also mentioned that keeping jurisdiction is important.  If your spouse moves out of the state and you don’t file to keep the case in Washington, you will take on the task of proving why the kids should have to move back, or arguing other issues in a different court.

ASSIGNING VISITATION RIGHTS

Military parents have a unique legal right in Washington State. As a service member, you can assign your visitation rights to another person while you are deployed. Washington law only provides this right to members of the military. This means that while you’re away, your children may spend your visitation time with a person of your choosing. For example, your mother (your children’s grandmother) could spend your visitation time with the children during your deployment.

While this is currently the law in Washington, it’s a new and untested legal concept. Your spouse may challenge your right to assign your visitation to someone else. Additionally, this law may not survive constitutional or Supreme Court challenges. You’re likely to have greater success if the assignee of the visitation right is closely related to your children (such as an adult sibling or grandparent).

FLEXIBLE VISITATION SCHEDULES

Even if you choose not to, or are unable to have your children live with you full time, you want to be able to spend as much time with them as possible. During the divorce process, you and your attorney will negotiate a Parenting Plan which will detail a visitation schedule.

Fair visitation can be challenging for service members. If you are active-duty military, your schedule can be unpredictable. You might not be able to pick your children up from school because you don’t have a 9-to-5 schedule. That doesn’t mean you don’t deserve full visitation with your children.  If you are located somewhere other than where the kids reside, you can still pursue extended summer visitation along with other reoccurring school break periods.

As we mentioned before, temporary orders are important and set the tone for the final orders.  If you file and concede custody in the initial paperwork, you will have to argue why that should no longer be the case in the future.  We also mentioned that keeping jurisdiction is important.  If your spouse moves out of the state and you don’t file to keep the case in Washington, you will take on the task of proving why the kids should have to move back, or arguing other issues in a different court.

ASSIGNING VISITATION RIGHTS

Military parents have a unique legal right in Washington State. As a service member, you can assign your visitation rights to another person while you are deployed. Washington law only provides this right to members of the military. This means that while you’re away, your children may spend your visitation time with a person of your choosing. For example, your mother (your children’s grandmother) could spend your visitation time with the children during your deployment.

While this is currently the law in Washington, it’s a new and untested legal concept. Your spouse may challenge your right to assign your visitation to someone else. Additionally, this law may not survive constitutional or Supreme Court challenges. You’re likely to have greater success if the assignee of the visitation right is closely related to your children (such as an adult sibling or grandparent).

Temporary Custody

SCRA PROTECTION

The Service Members Civil Relief Act (SCRA) protects active duty service members from untimely litigation and default judgments, and it allows service members to request a 90-day stay (or halting) of court proceedings. SCRA usually protects military parents from default judgments in custody and support matters, but SCRA protection is not automatic or absolute.

While courts are required to respect the provisions of SCRA, they must also consider the best interests of the children.

During a divorce, this can lead a judge to rule in favor of the non-military parent, even while the service member is deployed or out-of-state and unable to attend the hearing. In such cases, the court weighs the best interest of the children against the protections of SCRA. The best way to force a judge to honor the rights afforded by the SCRA is to have an attorney there to represent you.

A divorce lawyer experienced in military divorce can properly argue that respecting SCRA is in the best interest of the children and their military parents. You can trust our law firm to make sure you get fair treatment while you’re deployed protecting America.