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Protections Are Available for Service Members in Child Custody Disputes

For veterans going through a divorcechild custody is not always a straightforward matter, particularly when custody is contested. That is certainly the case with an Iraq War veteran from Oklahoma who is currently fighting to keep his daughter with him after the U.S. Supreme Court issued an unfavorable ruling in his case.

That girl had lived with a South Carolina couple for two years, since her birth in 2009. That couple had planned on adopting the girl from her biological mother. The father in the case initially surrendered his parental rights, but now says he misunderstood the custody arrangement that would result from signing the papers.  The girl has now been living with her father for 18 months.

The case is now to be decided by the South Carolina Supreme Court based on the best interest of the little girl: the South Carolina couple or her biological father.

One of the unfortunate realities for service members is that the possibility of deployment not infrequently plays a role in courts’ decisions to grant custody to a non-military spouse.  Fortunately, federal and state laws provides some protection to active service members.

Under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, military members can obtain a “stay” or postponement of a court or administrative proceedings in situations where the service affects their ability to go forward in a child custody dispute. This, of course, provides relief for members whose spouses attempt to change child custody status while the military spouse is deployed.

Texas law gives military members with children special consideration in child custody disputes. Service members with questions should contact an experienced family law attorney.