The decisions made in family law are often complex and difficult. You are deciding the future path of your family and likely creating your vision of what your life will be from scratch. That’s not an easy task. But at least those decisions are somewhat in your control, and maybe you even initiated the divorce.
Now, imagine that you are a military service member. You are passionate about your obligation to serve your country. But, you are also a parent and equally devoted to caring for your child. When service members are deployed, issues regarding the future of their families often arise due to their absence.
In the past, Texas courts have heard child custody and visitation cases filed by parents who construe military deployment as “abandoning” children at home. That argument has led to some military parents paying an excessive price for serving their country. Their courageous jobs cost them their child custody rights.
As of 2009, however, Texas enacted Senate Bill 279, which aims to protect military parents’ rights to their children and to having a say in the future of their families.
The bill allows for temporaray child custody, visitation and child support arrangements to be made while a parent is deployed, but the order only stands until the parent returns home. A family court judge will hear party requests regarding child custody arrangements and designate the primary residence where the child will stay throughout the time of deployment.
Also, if the child’s main residence was not with the military parent but they had regularly scheduled visitation with that parent, then new, temporary visitation arrangements can be made to make up for those visits. If a friend, family member or other interested party wants to visit the child in place of their deployed parent, a judge will allow that, as long as the visit is in the best interest of the child.
Enough worry and fear goes into military service. This Texas bill at least alleviates some of those emotions by ensuring that military parents’ rights to their families are protected while they are doing their part to protect the country.
24-7 pressrelease, FindLaw PR: Texas Enacts Family Protections During Military Parents’ Absences (8/12/2010)