The Uniform Deployed Parents Custody and Visitation Act
While the Uniform Deployed Parents Custody and Visitation Act was technically already in effect here in Florida midway through 2018, it is still relatively new and warrants a discussion considering our major military population here in Jacksonville. Unfortunately, there is very little in terms of federal regulations protecting the rights of deployed parents’ time-sharing or visitation rights. Over the last two decades, this has become an ever-growing issue with the presence of our troops overseas. As such, Florida adopted the aforementioned Uniform Deployed Parents Custody and Visitation Act on July 1, 2018. This Act helps fill some procedural holes that have formed in the family law realm now that deployments and divorce are both more common.
What does the Act entail?
The Act, which has been adopted into Sections 61.703-61.773 of the Florida Statutes, encompasses various issues concerning military member deployment and their children. These sections do everything from define key terms that may cause confusion in courts to elaborating how procedures change when certain criteria are met. These sections include provisions that:
Defining certain words, such as a “child.” Most would automatically assume that a child merely means anyone under the age of 18 but child also means any “adult son or daughter by birth or adoption . . . who is the subject of a court order concerning custodial responsibility.” These sections also define a minor in a “close and substantial relationship” with an agreed or requested non-family member adult for purposes of caretaking authority while the deployed parent is gone. Defining these terms is crucial in determining that this Act is applied correctly and to the correct individual. These sections also provide requirements of notice of deployment by the military parent to the other parent, and prohibit the court from allowing any deployments to be detrimental to the military parent in the determination of the best interests of the child.
Allow parents of a child to make temporary agreements out of court during the deployment of the military parent. These agreements usually concern either the custody or visitation, caretaking authority, or limited decision-making authority, of the child between the parents, family members or non-family member adults, as well as child support. For obvious reasons, this is an important provision as the military parent will have a difficult time exercising a “traditional” contact and time-sharing or visitation schedule while deployed.
Logistically, a deployment schedule could create many issues when trying to balance that with various court dates. As such, these sections also allow parents to have an expedited route to court when there are disagreements concerning custody orders to ensure that the matters are settled prior to deployment.
When dealing with unique situations, such as deployment, that require less traditional solutions, it is often necessary to create provisions that can undo those especially crafted resolutions. These sections do just that by establishing the necessary procedures to terminate temporary custody agreements that were made for situations like a deployment. The court also reserves the right to intervene in these matters for the best interests of the child.
Finally, these sections set out the date of July 1, 2018 for the applicability of the Act. The Act does not affect the validity of a temporary agreement or court order concerning custody or visitation during deployment that were entered before July 1, 2018. The Act also does not apply to situations where a permanent change of station move is made by a military parent.
At the time of this writing, there are a handful of states that have adopted the Uniform Deployed Parents Uniform Custody and Visitation Act. However, it is possible for states to adopt all, parts, or change various sections. Keep in mind that a state can differ from what is the standard in Florida. However, if you are coming from another State, or are concerned you will be stationed elsewhere or soon deployed, you can come in and have any questions you have answered by an experienced Family Law Attorney!