Proposed Amendments to Military Parent Equal Protection Act Could Have Significant Effects on Custody Rights for Deploying Parents

Proposed Amendments to Military Parent Equal Protection Act Could Have Significant Effects on Custody Rights for Deploying Parents

A military family has completely different considerations than civilian families. Military families must be ready for any and all conditions at a moment’s notice; they must be prepared if the family needs to move to another base, if there are any benefits to a military family that changes, if a member of the military family gets deployed, and for what happens to the military family when the member returns home. Members of military families, when active, spend a significant amount of time away from the family home, and this can lead to significant family problems that the strains of military life not only start but may exacerbate as well. In the past, military service men and women were at a disadvantage when it came to divorce, child custody, and visitation rights.

History of Military Protections

Historically, the government enacted legislation for military protections to provide a balancing mechanism for inequities faced by the military parent. These military protections, however, only applied to periods of time where the military parent was actively in service but did not help ameliorate many issues that the government did not consider, including child support issues and custody rights.

South Carolina’s Military Parent Equal Protection Act

In 2009, South Carolina passed the Military Parent Equal Protection Act, which helped provide service men and women equality with their non-military ex-spouses in family court. The Act includes not only active military service but also imagines family law rights in times of reserve duty.

Largely, the Act helps to accommodate any “change in circumstance” that may affect a military parent and allow for constant changes to the divorce and child custody agreements based largely on the forced change of circumstances as a result of his or her military status.

Protections for Military Parents and Non-Military Parents

However, the Act equally protects the non-military parent from bad faith conduct by declaring that any change made is only on a temporary basis, and must go through the appropriate channels to become a permanent modification. This ensures that deployment or any other military status of the military parent does not vary the terms of the divorce or child custody agreement until the two parties have come to an agreement about the change that is not related to the military status of the military parent.

The Act, when it comes to permanent custody rights, dictates that the military deployment of the military parent cannot be the only factor determining the permanent child custody arrangement. Temporary custody may be determined as a result of the military deployment, but upon return, the permanent custody arrangements are enforceable.

Protection of Visitation Rights: The Right to “Virtual Visitation

Visitation rights are also protected through this act. Though South Carolina does not discuss the advances within technology that make it possible for the military parent to have virtual access to his or her child, it asserts that the custodial, non-military parent must provide the greatest extent of communication reasonably possible between the military parent and the child. Visitation rights in this forum rely primarily on the cooperation of the non-military parent to ensure that the child has computer access.

Amendments Proposed in January 2015

The South Carolina Legislature proposed a new bill in January 2015, providing for additions to the current standards in place. This additional section is known as the “Uniform Deployed Parents Custody and Visitation Act.” This amendment provides for notification requirements (a military parent must notify the other parent of a pending deployment within seven days of receiving notice of the deployment unless reasonably unable due to his or her service), and addresses issues regarding custodial responsibility during and after deployment, more specifically when the other parent is not permitted or otherwise unable to be the custodial parent for the child.

Experienced Family Law Attorneys in Mount Pleasant, Charleston Area

Issues surrounding military divorce vary significantly from issues surrounding a divorce between civilians. The experienced attorneys at Klok Law Firm LLC will be able to provide comprehensive legal advice to those going through a military divorce. Contact Klok Law Firm LLC today for an initial and confidential consultation.